What’s in a middle name? The middle name often hangs out in the background, like the unsung hero of the naming game. It’s not just a filler between the first and last; think of it as the hidden gem that adds a dash of flair to your baby’s full name.  Middle names are a chance to weave in family traditions, names from the family tree, a nod to your ethnic background, or a place to put that quirky name you wanted to use.

So, this year we’ve decided to calculate the most popular middle names that people have put on their favorite name lists throughout the year. Here are the results:

Top Middle Names for Girls in 2023

Middle names for girls are sticking with the old-fashioned (“grandma”) name trend, however many of them are monosyllabic. 70% of the top ten middle names are one syllable, most probably because parents are choosing more elaborate and creative names as first names. We also see some mid-century names cropping up, most likely a nod to a grandparent or great-parent.

  1. Rose. “The rose Flower.” The name Rose, a classic and elegant choice, derives from the Latin word “rosa,” symbolizing the beautiful and fragrant flower. As a name, Rose conveys a sense of grace and beauty. Associated with love and romance, the name has been a favorite for centuries. Beyond its floral connotations, Rose has qualities of purity and simplicity. Whether encountered in classic literature, where characters named Rose often represent sweetness and virtue, or in modern society, where it continues to be a popular choice for a middle name, the name carries an enduring appeal. With its short and melodious sound, Rose stands as a testament to the enduring allure of names inspired by nature, evoking images of blooming gardens and the elegance of this beloved flower.
  2. Grace. “Charm.” Symbolizing divine favor and kindness, Grace is a virtue name that embodies a sense of poise, beauty, and a gentle strength. Its simplicity and purity make it a name that resonates across cultures and backgrounds. Grace is not only a word associated with charm and beauty but also holds deeper connotations of generosity and goodness. The name Grace often suggests qualities of compassion and remains a popular and beloved middle name choice.
  3. May/Mae. “Goddess Maia” or “Family of Matthew.” The month of May was named after Maia, the goddess of Spring. Also spelled Mae, the name encapsulates a delicate strength within its brevity. It exudes a delicate charm and simplicity, reminiscent of the blooming flowers and the warmth that characterizes the month of May. Often chosen for its brevity, May carries a certain whimsy and grace. Whether encountered in literature, where it can symbolize new beginnings and growth, or in modern society, where it stands as a name that embodies the spirit of the season, May remains a classic and enchanting middle name choice with a sense of natural beauty and optimism.
  4. Marie. “Of the Sea” or “Bitter.” Of French origin, Marie is the French form of the name Maria. Throughout history, Marie has been associated with noble figures, including queens and saints, adding a sense of grace and dignity to the name. Often used as a middle name, Marie has a versatility that goes beyond cultures and languages. With its soft and melodic sound, the name Marie has a sense of sophistication and refinement.
  5. Jane. “God is Gracious.” The name Jane, a timeless and understated classic, carries a sense of quiet strength and enduring grace. A feminine form of John, Jane has a rich historical and literary legacy. This one-syllable name has adorned numerous notable figures, from literary characters like Jane Eyre to historical figures such as Lady Jane Grey. Its simplicity and straightforward beauty give it a universal appeal for a middle name. Jane, with its modest elegance, suggests qualities of resilience, intelligence, charm, and quiet strength.
  6. Elizabeth. “God is my Oath.” The name Elizabeth is of Hebrew origin and is derived from the Hebrew name Elisheva. The name was borne by several characters in the Old Testament, including the mother of John the Baptist. Elizabeth is a name of regal stature and enduring beauty. Revered for its historical significance, Elizabeth has graced the pages of royalty, literature, and biblical narratives alike. Elizabeth’s appeal as a middle name extends across cultures, making it a name that resonates globally and stands as a symbol of grace, resilience, and elegance.
  7. Ruth. “Friendship.” In the Bible, Ruth was a Moabite woman who married Naomi’s son. Exemplifying loyalty, devotion, and resilience, the name has transcended its religious roots to become a classic middle name choice appreciated for its simplicity and depth. Ruth carries a sense of elegance, and its gentle sound evokes qualities of kindness and steadfastness. Ruth stands as a name that resonates with virtues of compassion and a steadfast sense of character.
  8. Louise. “Famous Warrior.” The name Louise, the feminized form of the name Louis, exudes an air of sophistication. This name has graced many historical figures and literary characters, contributing to its popularity. Louise conjures images of poise, reminiscent of elegant bygone eras. The name Louise remains a beloved choice as a middle name for its simple, classic appeal and a touch of historical grandeur.
  9. Claire.“Illustrious, Englightened.” With its simplicity and elegance, Claire has maintained an appeal across various cultures and languages. The name Claire has been a popular choice for both literary characters and real-life individuals alike. Its delicate sound carries a subtle strength, evoking images of clarity and brilliance. The name Claire signifies a luminous presence and remains a favorite for a middle name for its classic charm.
  10. Lee. “Field.” The name Lee carries a unisex charm with a simplicity that transcends gender boundaries. Originally of Old English origin, the name Lee evokes a sense of nature and openness. Lee possesses a straightforward elegance that has made it a popular choice for a middle name. Its brevity adds to its versatility, and Lee has been embraced by individuals of diverse backgrounds. In addition to its connection with nature, Lee can also be a family name, contributing to its widespread usage as a middle name. The name Lee often describes a person with a down-to-earth demeanor and stands as a name that embraces simplicity with a touch of charm.

Top Middle Names for Boys in 2023

As is prevalent with boy names, the most popular middle names for boys are primarily Biblical names. Exceptions to this would be Alexander, Charles, and George, which are also trending as first names, so they would be considered good second names.

  1. James. “Supplanter.” The name James comes from the Hebrew name Yaakov. In the Old Testament, Jacob was one of the patriarchs of the Israelite people and the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Over time, the name Yaakov was translated into various languages, and in English, it became James. James has been a perennial favorite for middle names across different cultures and regions. Its versatility is evident in its widespread usage, from biblical figures to English monarchs and contemporary pop culture icons. The name signifies strength and reliability, often associated with individuals who possess a strong sense of leadership and charisma. Often found in classic literature, renowned historical figures, or everyday life, James is as a name that carries a certain dignified quality, making it a perennial choice for a middle name.
  2. Michael. “Who is like God?” In the Bible, Michael was an archangel. The meaning of the name Michael is a question, meaning “who could possibly be as great as God?” Often it is misinterpreted to mean “he who is like God.” Michael is one of the most common names in the world and has been popular for boys in western Europe since the medieval period. Widely adopted across diverse cultures and languages, use as a middle name goes beyond time and trends, maintaining its popularity through the ages. The name Michael embodies qualities of resilience, courage, and a sense of purpose. Michaels have left an indelible mark, contributing to fields ranging from arts and sciences to leadership and sports. The name Michael encapsulates a timeless blend of spiritual depth, strength, and a sense of divine inspiration.
  3. Alexander. “Defender of the People.” The name Alexander reflects qualities of strength, leadership, and protection. Notably borne by historical figures such as Alexander the Great, whose military conquests shaped the course of ancient history, the name has become synonymous with strategic brilliance and ambition. Its widespread adoption across cultures, from the Hellenistic world to modern societies, underscores its appeal as a middle name. The name Alexander is often associated with intelligence, charisma, and a natural aptitude for influence. Whether in literature, military exploits, or everyday life, the name Alexander stands as a testament to a legacy characterized by strength, resilience, and a commitment to making a lasting impact.
  4. Joseph. “God will Increase.” Joseph is a significant name in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. The most famous Joseph in the Bible is Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel. He is known for his colorful coat, his ability to interpret dreams, and his rise to power in Egypt, where he ultimately saved his family during a famine. The name Joseph is also associated with various saints in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions. The name Joseph has been a choice for generations for middle names. Joseph carries connotations of wisdom, integrity, and reliability. The name has been embraced globally, adorned by historical figures and influential personalities, adding a sense of universality to its appeal. Joseph stands as a name that resonates with strength, virtue, and a resilient sense of character.
  5. John. “God is Gracious.” John is one of the most common names in English. It derives from the Latin name Iohannes, which comes from the original Hebrew form of the name. John the Baptist and the apostle John are two important figures that gave rise to the popularity of the name. Throughout history the name has been borne by many important notable people, including kings and emperors. The name John carries an air of reliability and approachability, often associated with individuals of sincerity, integrity, and a strong moral compass. The name John remains a classic middle name, embodying a sense of dignity and humility.
  6. David. “Beloved.” The name David is steeped in biblical significance as David is celebrated as one of the greatest kings of Israel, known for his courage, wisdom, and musical prowess. Beyond its religious roots, the name has become a favorite across the globe. The name David is often characterized by their warmth, affability, and a natural ability to forge meaningful connections with others. David suggests a sense of camaraderie and strength, making it a steadfast and enduring choice for a middle name.
  7. Robert. “Bright Fame.” The name Robert is rooted in Germanic origins, particularly “Hrodebert.” It encapsulates a sense of strength, wisdom, and enduring appeal. With a rich historical legacy, numerous notable figures bearing the name Robert have left their mark on various aspects of society, from royalty to literature and beyond. Its versatility is evident in the way it seamlessly adapts across cultures and languages, consistently ranking as a classic choice for generations. Roberts are often associated with a balance of practicality and charisma, embodying qualities of leadership and reliability. Robert carries an inherent sense of respectability and timelessness as a middle name.
  8. Charles. “Free Man.” With a rich history spanning European royalty, military leaders, and influential thinkers, the name Charles has maintained its elegance and versatility. It has a certain regality to it, often associated with individuals of intelligence, diplomacy, and charisma. From monarchs like Charlemagne to renowned figures such as Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens, the name has adorned prominent historical and cultural figures across diverse fields. Charles reflects a blend of tradition and adaptability, making it a middle name that spans generations. The name Charles stands as a symbol of strength, leadership, and a refined sense of character.
  9. George.”Farmer.” The name George was originally derived from the Greek name Georgios, which was composed of the elements ge (earth) and ergon (work). The name George has a rich historical significance, notably borne by kings and saints alike, contributing to its popularity across diverse cultures. It often brings to mind traits of strength, reliability, and a strong work ethic. Historical figures like Saint George, known for his legendary dragon-slaying exploits, and revered monarchs such as King George III, have added a layer of nobility to the name. In modern times, the name remains a classic choice for a middlename, blending values and a sense of strength.
  10. Thomas. “A twin.” In the Bible, Thomas is an apostle of Christ. Derived from the Aramaic name “Ta’oma,” meaning “twin,” the name Thomas has retained its popularity across cultures for generations. Its widespread usage in literature, history, and everyday life underscores its versatility and adaptability. Notable figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, and Thomas Aquinas have further enriched the name’s legacy, associating it with intellectual prowess and innovation. Use of the name Thoams for a middle name continues to resonate as a symbol of reliability and a thoughtful demeanor.

Reviewing the most popular middle names, we noticed that most contain one or two syllables, suggesting a preference for shorter middle names. The names are primarily traditional, which could be due to the fact that middle names are often used to honor family members and thus propagating their use. Middle names tend to be timeless classics but can also be used for individuality when used to distinguish one family member from another. The importance of middle names extends beyond their mere placement; they weave a nuanced narrative of personal and familial history, adding depth and significance to the mosaic of names that shape our lives.

Best Practices for Middle Naming

You have a little more leeway with middle names for your child because they won’t be used as often as the first and last.

1. If you’re considering an off-beat name, and debating whether your child will appreciate it but it means a lot to you, consider putting it in the middle placement. If you’re not sure about a name, that means you have doubts that it will make a good given name.

2. Middle names are a great way to honor a family member or friend without having to use their name as a given name. If two family members are competing about baby names, you can even stick two names in the middle!

3. Try to avoid overly trendy or faddish names, as middle names often serve as timeless anchors. Striking a balance between uniqueness and simplicity ensures a middle name that stands out without overshadowing the first name.

4. Remember, middle names are read aloud in the most important of events: birth, graduation, and marriage! Don’t make it too wacky that people will laugh at it read aloud.

5. Keep it simple. Remember your child will have to fill out forms for their entire lives asking for middle name entry. Don’t make any part of your child’s name a burden on them.

Mallory Moss is the co-founder of BabyNames.com and co-host of The Baby Names Podcast. Mallory has a PhD in psychiatric nursing and has written articles for The Huffington Post on names and name trends. She has one grown daughter, Veronica, who lives in Austria.