The name does not correspond to any current administrative area, and there is therefore no strict definition. However, it is generally considered to include the counties of Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, the West Midlands and Worcestershire. The 2001 census included Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire in the Midlands, though East Anglia (the collective name for these counties) is not usually considered part of the Midlands.
The greater part of the Midlands is covered by two administrative regions of England, West Midlands and East Midlands. However, even taken together, these regions do not fully cover the traditional Midlands, because:
The "midland" status of Cheshire is often debated. South Cheshire has strong links with North Staffordshire (definitely in the Midlands), and North Cheshire with Merseyside and Manchester (both definitely in Northern England). In official eyes, the northward pull prevailed (perhaps because the county town, Chester, is so far north) and Cheshire is now part of the North West region.
The largest Midlands conurbation, which includes the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, is approximately covered by a metropolitan county (which also includes the city of Coventry), also called the West Midlands. Thus, there are two West Midlands, a Region and a (smaller) County.
Parts of the East Midlands are also densely populated, particularly the triangle formed by the cities of Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, which also includes sizeable towns such as Loughborough and the Long Eaton–Beeston–Stapleford subconurbation.
The South Midlands is an area identified by the government for regional development purposes, consisting of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire with northern Buckinghamshire (what is now the Milton Keynes unitary authority). Bedfordshire and particularly Buckinghamshire are not usually considered part of the Midlands and are in the administrative regions of the East of England and the South East respectively, a further illustration of the fluidity of the perceived boundaries of the Midlands. Banbury in north Oxfordshire is often considered as the southern extremity of the English Midlands as it is relatively industrialised and many locals harbour an accent which is discernibly non-Southern. The town also has strong links with the Birmingham–Coventry industrial zone to the north.