There’s nothing more permanent than giving a child a Land of Lincoln-inspired name
If you’re looking to make Illinois more than just the place you call home, you can embrace its heritage (imperfections and all) and pick one of these names for your next bundle of joy
To show our Illinois pride, we’ve come up with a list of some of our favorite Illinois-inspired baby names. Some of them are very specific to Champaign-Urbana; others have more of a historical flavor; some honor Illinois historical figures, including activists, politicians, musicians and athletes.
CHAMPAIGN-URBANA AREA INSPIRED NAMES:
Morrow: As in, the Morrow Plots — perhaps the most historic place in Champaign-Urbana that many people don’t know about. Established in 1876, the Morrow Plots are the oldest experimental crop field in the Americas and the second oldest in the world. Named for the first dean of the College of Agriculture, what could be more Illinois than a famous corn field?
Kirby: This is about as Champaign as it gets. How often do we drive down this stretch of road? And well, this name wins over “Florida” (sorry Urbana). Unisex.
Roger: As in Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic. One of Urbana’s most famous sons and founder of one of the most iconic cultural events that happens annually in Champaign.
Alma: As in Mater. Of course, the term “alma mater” is nothing unique to Champaign-Urbana, but the Alma Mater sculpture at the corner of Wright and Green Streets is definitely iconic. We still remember the early days of the university on social media, when the Alma Mater statue was anthropomorphized — she spoke and danced.
Allerton: This would be a unique name that refers to one of the most beautiful places we enjoy in our community – Allerton Park and Retreat Center.
ILLINOIS POLITICIANS AND PRESIDENTS
Lincoln: This is the Land of Lincoln after all. We’re certainly proud of the 16th president and his roots in our fine state. His name is a legend among legends.
Juliana: Inspired by Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, now serving in her second term (below). She is the first African-American woman to become Illinois’ lieutenant governor, and the state’s fourth woman lieutenant governor overall.
Reagan and Grant: We enjoy presidential names. President Ronald Reagan was born and raised in Eureka; although many people forget he was from Illinois because he rose to political prominence in California. President Ulysses S. Grant wasn’t born in Illinois and didn’t die here either, but lived for a short time in Galena. You can still visit his home there.
Michelle: Otherwise known as the former First Lady of the United States. Her first book Becoming tells her very Illinois story, growing up on the south side of Chicago (we REALLY loved her most recent memoir even more.) Her accomplishments on her own speak for themselves. All of the Obamas have significant Illinois cred.
Hillary: There’s no question that Hillary Clinton is one of the most influential American women ever to come from Illinois. Born and raised in Park Ridge, a northwest Chicago suburb, Clinton’s connection to the Chicago area has been limited since her teenage years.
THE ARTS AND MUSIC
Miles: Little known fact, jazz great Miles Davis was born in Alton and raised in East St. Louis before heading off to New York City. The legendary trumpeter “was arguably the most influential jazz musician in the post-World War II period.”
Chance: As in, Chance the Rapper, a Grammy-winning artist and inspiring social activist. Chicago’s favorite rapper is also a singer-songwriter and record producer.
Alison: Champaign native Alison Kraus is one of the most award-winning bluegrass artists of all time. Her fiddling career famously started during a talent contest at the Champaign County Fair. In 2019, she received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given to artists by the United States government, and in 2021 she was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
Walt: Yes, Walt Disney was indeed from Illinois, born in Chicago. He also attended high school there, and became the cartoonist of the school newspaper, drawing patriotic pictures about World War I.
Gwendolyn: As a child growing up in Chicago, seeing Gwendolyn Brooks read poetry to schoolchildren was not all that uncommon. This talented poet, writer and teacher was accessible and genuine. And also a Pulitzer Prize winner, who succeeded regardless of a lack of “formal” education.
ATHLETES AND SPORTS
Tatyana: Some of the world’s top athletes live and train in our backyard, thanks to the famed University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign wheelchair athletics program. Tatyana McFadden is one of its most heralded; in total, she holds 17 Paralympic medals and has won the grand slam of marathons — Boston, London, Chicago and New York City — four times. She’s also been described as a relentless advocate for people with disabilities.
Payton: This Payton is all about Sweetness, aka Walter. Bear down, Chicago Bears. The version with an e is not the same, but we will accept.
Bonnie: Don’t see very many Bonnies these days, but if you want to bestow upon your daughter an Olympic-sized name in Champaign-Urbana, this is it. Champaign native Bonnie Blair is one of the most decorated Olympic athletes of all time.
Jordan: This should really be self-explanatory, but maybe it isn’t anymore. Jordan, as in the greatest basketball player who ever lived. One of the few unisex names that doesn’t seem to be co-opted by either gender. Conveys a confident swagger.
Grange: Aka The Galloping Ghost, or Red Grange. Most people know this name because of the favorite tailgate area for Illini football, the eponymous Grange Grove. It’s also the name of the man whose statue presides over that field. Grange, who starred for Illinois first, later went on to the Chicago Bears. (His actual name was Harold.)
Wrigley, Clark, Addison, and Sheffield: It’s hardly original for a Cubs fan to give their children (and their pets) names inspired by their favorite Chicago team on the diamond. (For the uninitiated, Wrigley Field sits between Clark and Addison and Sheffield.)
Ayo: As in Dosunmu. One of the most popular Illini in history, he was a consensus first-team All-American in 2021. But it was his magnetic personality that endeared him to fans. The Chicago native is now playing for the Bulls, cementing his Illinois legacy.
Jane: Social worker, author, peace activist, and leader in the women’s suffrage movement, Jane Addams (1860-1935) is best known as the founder of Hull House in Chicago. Addams was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. A true hero.
Ida: While Jane Addams certainly grabs the headlines from that era, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) was one of the most important women in Illinois history. Wells juggled journalism, activism and civil rights (and was a mother too). In 1909, she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), although she was later “ousted.” She was also a key member of the women’s suffrage movement and one of the first Black women to run for public office in the country. More HERE.
Ngozi: In honor of the genius of Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the recent top doctor at the Illinois Department of Health. She became nationally renowned for her compassionate leadership through the pandemic.
Top Baby Names in Illinois: A look behind the data
From the Social Security Administration, the top five baby names in the state of Illinois from 2021 were:
Top Five for Girls: Olivia, Emma, Sophia, Charlotte, Amelia
Top Five for Boys: Noah, Liam, Oliver, Henry, Benjamin
ILLINOIS GEOGRAPHY INSPIRED BABY NAMES
We asked, you answered. What are places in Illinois that people name their child after?
Central Illinois nominees: Cisco, Paxton, Sidney, Homer, Clinton, Paris, LeRoy, Forrest, Findlay, Dewey, Casey, Lincoln, Dwight, Bethany, Garrett, Sullivan
Southern Illinois/Metro East: Anna, Alton, Shiloh, Marion, Mason
Northern Illinois: Aurora, Lena, Nora
OTHER: Shawnee, McLean