First names are pretty important. They’re the first thing we ask about when we meet a new person and the first bits of personal information we offer in return. Names also hold meaning all their own, beyond just being the way we get each other’s attention.
Names can carry on a family legacy, they can be bestowed in honor of a literary, television, or movie character — hello, Khaleesi's of the world — or their etymologies can represent a trait or idea, like courage or light.
It’s fun to get to see what names parents decide to give their children each year, and parents of West Virginia both bucked and aligned with naming trends for the rest of the country. Below, find West Virginia’s top baby names for 2023.
Starting with the boys.
West Virginia's Top 10 Boy Names
10 years ago, only two of these names could be found in West Virginia’s top 10 most popular boy names. Seven of them didn’t even break the top 100! Pretty crazy how much our influences change over such a short amount of time.
Asher ranked #8 on West Virginia’s top baby names for 2022, and this year, it ranks 19 overall in the United States.
This name is rooted in Hebrew and it means “happy and blessed.” In the Old Testament, Asher is
the son of Jacob, who, according to biblical texts, was chosen by God to be the patriarch for the Israelite nation. Jacob fathered 11 more sons and historians consider all 12 sons ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel.
The Jewish population in West Virginia has been steadily declining since 1956, but this has apparently had no effect on the popularity of this name for boys. Oftentimes, people pick names because they like how they sound and it seems like this is the most likely case for this particular one.
Grayson ranks #2 in West Virginia’s top baby names for 2023, but only #37 in the rest of the country. Originally a surname meaning “son of the steward” — ”greyve” meaning “steward” in Middle English — Grayson didn’t become a popular first name until the end of the 20th century.
We could attribute its recent popularity to its usage in the Young Adult book series The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. The first book of the trilogy was published in 2020 and the final book just came out in August 2022 and has spent 47 weeks on the New York Times’ Bestseller List as of today.
Waylon’s popular in West Virginia, but it doesn’t crack the top 50 in the United States’ overall most popular names! Still, the name has a pretty cool backstory behind it.
Waylon can actually be traced back to the Old English name “Weland” which can be traced even further back to the Germanic root wīlą meaning “craft, cunning.” According to legend, Weland (also Vǫlundr in Old Norse) was a master smith. King Niðhad captured Weland to force him to make wares only for him, but Weland escaped and took revenge for his enslavement by killing the king’s children.
Definitely don’t mess with Waylon!
Oliver is actually ranked a little higher in popularity for the overall United States, but the name still moved up quite a bit in West Virginia, after not even making the top 10 last year.
This name comes from the Old French “Olivier,” which has roots in the Latin word for olive tree, “oliva.”
Just like its place on this list, Oliver has had some ups and downs in popularity over history. It was a very popular name in the Middle Ages but then became less so after the downfall of Oliver Cromwell, who thrust England into a Civil War in the seventeenth century only. When the monarchy achieved power once again, they put Cromwell's head on a spike to warn off further treason.
The name became popular again in the 19th century, which also happened to be around the time Charles Dickens published Oliver Twist. The name’s popularity has only gone up since then.
West Virginia’s most popular baby names for 2022 featured Liam in its #1 spot. Liam also takes the #1 spot in the United States, overall.
The backstory of Liam is pretty straightforward: it’s short for William! Now, though, it’s a popular name in its own right.
How many parents named their baby Maverick after seeing Top Gun: Maverick last year? Enough to land the name at #6 on West Virginia’s top baby names for 2023!
According to Merriam-Webster, Samuel A. Maverick, a 19th-century Texan lawyer, is who we have to thank for this popular boy’s name. Maverick received 400 cattle from a client in payment of a debt, but he had no use for them, so he left the cattle unbranded and let them roam free, which was totally unprecedented. After neighbors started stealing and branding the cattle for themselves, Maverick sold whatever was left of his herd. But his defiant nature stuck to his name and when we think of the Mavericks of the world today, the phrase “ stubborn trailblazer” immediately comes to mind.
Noah is the #2 most popular name in the United States this year, but still pretty popular in West Virginia even at #7!
Another biblical name like Asher, Noah comes from the Hebrew name Noach derived from the root nuach, meaning “rest, repose.” Most of us probably know the name Noah because of the story in the Old Testament that features Noah building the Ark to allow himself, his family, and two of every animal species to survive the flood God sent to hard restart life on Earth.
The name’s popularity could be attributed to that story. But there’s also another story, written by Nicholas Sparks, that might explain why the name became so popular in the early aughts. The Notebook features a character named Noah as its main protagonist.
Derived from the popular Celtic name Eòghann, Owen is originally rooted in the Greek word “eugenes,” meaning “well-born.”
In the United States, Lincoln is a popular name because of Abraham Lincoln, the US president who abolished slavery during the Civil War. Prior to his life and death, Lincoln was typically only ever seen as a surname, derived from the name of a city in England named Lindum Colonia.
Hudson comes from an English surname meaning “son of Hudde,” Hudde being a diminutive of the name Hugh.
Besides just sounding cool, Hudson is the name of a character in The Legend of Zelda video game franchise, which might have given the idea for the name to some parents.
And now, West Virginia’s most popular baby names for girls.
West Virginia's Top 10 Girl Names
This is the second year in a row that Amelia clinched the #1 slot for West Virginia!
Amelia is a variant of Amalia, which is rooted in the Germanic word amal, meaning “unceasing, vigorous, brave.” It became popular in England because George II and George III — both members of the German House of Hanover — named their daughters Amelia.
Of course, we can’t forget about Amelia Earheart, who symbolizes bravery and exploration.
Olivia is the #1 most popular name overall in the United States, but it’s not too far off that ranking in West Virginia.
Most attribute the invention of this name to William Shakespeare, who used it for one of his female characters in Twelfth Night. Prior to that, girls never had the name. It takes its roots from the same Latin word that Oliver does: oliva for “olive tree.”
Last year, Sophia made West Virginia’s top 10 list by the skin of its teeth, being ranked at #10. This year, it moved up all the way to #3!
Sophia means “wisdom” in Greek. This name, like Amelia, was also popularized by the German House of Hanover although before that, in the Middle Ages, continental European royals often carried the name.
In the United States, this name didn’t start rising in popularity until the 1990s.
Ranked #37 on the United States' list of most popular baby names, we can probably attribute the rise in this name’s popularity to the resurgence of the Disney character Willow. Originally a fantasy movie released in 1988 and directed by Ron Howard, Willow was rebooted and turned into a Disney+ series in 2022. Although it was ultimately cancelled, the character Willow has such a cult following that it’s no surprise this name appears among the most popular baby names in 2023.
It is derived from the Old English word for the willow tree, “welig.”
Ava is a variant of Eve, which comes from the Hebrew name Chawwah, derived from the Hebrew word chawah, which means “to breathe.”
Eve is, of course, probably the most well-known woman in human history, being one of the first two humans created by God, according to the Old Testament. She ate fruit from the tree of knowledge even though it was forbidden and was thus expelled from the Garden of Eden, along with her counterpart, Adam.
This didn’t scare off any Christians from using her name for their children. But just to ward off any potential negative associations, Ava was probably taken up as a safer solution with a similar sound.
Harper ranked second on West Virginia’s list of most popular baby names last year but fell this year to #6.
Like some of the other names on this list, Harper was originally a surname for a person who made harps. One of the more famous figures in history to have Harper as a first name is American author Harper Lee, who penned To Kill a Mockingbird, a staple on school reading lists.
Emma stems from Germanic names that began with the root irmin meaning “whole” or “great.”
Today, it is probably most associated with the main, matchmaking character of Jane Austen’s novel called Emma. The book, which was published in 1816, has several film adaptations.
Charlotte didn’t break West Virginia’s top 10 last year, but here it is at #8!
This name is the French feminine diminutive of Charles and became popular in the UK when it was borne by a queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland, who is the central character of Bridgerton spinoff Queen Charlotte.
The other famous bearer of the name, probably more well-known in the United States is a fictional talking spider from the popular children’s book Charlotte’s Web.
Scarlett was a popular name this year in West Virginia, but not in the rest of the United States, where it didn’t make the top 50 most popular baby names.
Another name adopted from an English surname — this one means a person who crafted clothes made of a kind of cloth called “scarlet” — Scarlett is probably most famous for being the name of the protagonist of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s reconstruction-era romantic epic novel.
Perhaps surprisingly, the name didn’t really become popular again until the early aughts of the 21st century, when American actress Scarlett Johansson began appearing in films. Johansson is now one of the most identifiable movie stars today and we probably have her to thank for the popularity of this name.
Last on this list is Paisley, which ranked #3 last year on West Virginia’s list of most popular baby names.
Paisley is derived from a Scottish surname, which is the name of a town outside Glasgow. But it’s better known as a kind of pattern you can often find on fabric.
Top 25 Boy Names in West Virginia for 2023
Top 25 Girl Names in West Virginia for 2023
How to Choose Your Baby's Name
Choosing a name for your child isn't a light decision. They will (most likely) carry their name with them their whole life and will own all of the possible associations that come with their name. Popularity doesn't always mean a certain name is the best choice! After all, popularity indicates many others have the same thing. Maybe you want your child to have a name more unique and their own. Whatever the case, don't let the decision overwhelm you. It's exciting! Let the joy of picking a name for your child wash over you.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©dushkovladimir/Shutterstock.com.