Category: Cool Baby Names
Unisex baby names, when they begin to veer toward use for one gender more than the other, typically move to the girls’ side.
But not always. Thanks to the wonderful chart by Steve Ruble that we are delighted to feature on our new unisex baby names home page, we can see how the gender ratio of unisex names morphs over time. And an increasing number of unisex baby names names are turning decidedly more blue.
The multi-ethnic Amari was two-thirds female in 2000, soon after in entered the U.S. Top 1000, and now has reversed course and is 63% male.
Nickname-names Artie, Donnie, and Frankie along with many others were a fad for girls back in 1880, when the Social Security Administration began keeping records: They were 85% female at that time. By 1950 all three names were given to half girls and half boys, and today have become virtually all-male.
Ashton tarted out as a quietly but consistently-used boys’ name. Then in the late 1980s it had a flurry of use for girls; in 1986, 1,200 children were given the name, 79% of them female. But now Ashton is 94% male.
Carey and Kerry have both been used quietly since the 1880s, for decades almost always for males. But in the 1970s and early 80s that switched and the names both became two-thirds female. And now it’s switched back so that 72% of the children named Carey and 66% of those named Kerry are boys.
In 1642, Oliver Cromwell led a contingent of parliamentarians against King Charles I, defeating him in what became known as the English Civil War and giving rise to the only occasion in modern British history where the monarchy has not held power. Three and a half centuries later, he became my husband’s hero for it, my husband who is a constitutional lawyer and a committed republican (small ‘r’). In the years before the arrival of our first child, we lived in Oxford, both of us affiliated with the University there. Amidst its hallowed halls and Gothic spires, people would talk in hushed tones about their ‘periods’ of expertise. My husband’s period was the seventeenth century. Cromwell was his guy.
Unsurprisingly, Oliver was always his first choice for a boy’s name. It became mine too. We said we weren’t having children, though, so we bestowed instead the name Cromwell upon our future dog, a brown and white beagle. Things changed and we didn’t get the dog. But we did welcome a son who was, of course, called Oliver. My husband wanted it because it was traditional and historically grounded. I wanted it because it was sparky and unconventional. It is both of those things, depending on where you come from: this is what has made the Venn diagram effect of our name selection so successful. The year Oliver was born it was the fifth most popular baby name in the UK. In the US, it hadn’t even broken the top 100.
Yes, June is busting out all over—the summer solstice month of long days, of bridal parties and Father’s Day tributes. If you’re anticipating a June baby, why not consider one of the names that relate directly or slightly indirectly to the month of its birth? Here, an update of our annual rundown of June names to ponder.
June—Too obvious for a June baby? Perhaps. Until recently, June was considered the quintessential fifties goody-goody girl name, as in June Cleaver– apronned mom of Beaver– and twinkly actress June Allyson (born Ella). But as those images have faded to sepia, June is sounding less saccharine and more modern. Balthazar Getty used it for his daughter in 2008, and Amanda Peet realized its middle-name potential when she named her daughter Molly June.
Love reading and writing? Love the idea of names inspired by this love? But it can be so hard to pick just one iconic writer, book or character that represents your tastes and what it is that you like so much about the world of fiction and prose. If you’re someone trying to escape this “can’t see the forest for the trees” problem, how about some more general literary related names?
Author - If occupational names are in, why not Author? Due to its similarity to Arthur, this would probably work best for a boy. It has in fact been used regularly in America, appearing in the US charts most years up until 1995, when it dropped off, not to be seen again. Maybe we feel it would be too much for a child to live up to these days because it is still a common profession, whereas the more popular occupational names such as Piper, Hunter, Cooper or Archer are much rarer today.
Fable – Fable is so adorable! It would be a great name for either gender. It only started charting in America in recent years, and 2012 was the first year it registered for boys. Fable is also the name of an action role-playing video game, so it has the cool advantages of a literary reference, classic feel, modern sound, and video game reference.
Journey - The Heroes Journey is generally accepted as a template for an effective fictional tale story-line. It also happens to be the name of a great (some may say legendary) rock band that has won a new generation of fans after their hit Don‘t Stop Believing‘ became the iconic song of the first season of Glee. Another choice that works well for both genders, it has been gaining in popularity since 1981, and in 2012 was positioned at Number 327 for girls and 1809 for boys. Variations Journee, Journei, Journi, Journie, Journiee, Journii and Journye have also been popping up on girls.
Legend - OK, admittedly this is a bit over the top as a first name. But it makes a fantastic middle. How cool would it be to say “My middle name is Legend“? A bit cheesy, yes, but cool. Legend first appeared in the US charts for boys in 1993, closely followed by the girls in 1994, but remains more popular for boys. In 2012 it was ranked at 834 for boys, and 6174 for girls. Seems this is one case of a daring name that people are more inclined to use for boys.
Muse - The Muses of Greek mythology were the goddesses of inspiration for literature, science and the arts. These days, a muse is a general term for a person who inspires someone to do great artistic work. It is also the name of an English rock band, who were reportedly inspired by one of the band member’s art teacher. Muse has only charted for boys, in the years 2005, 2010. 2011 and 2012, with parents preferring other versions such as Musetta or Musidora for their daughters.
Myth - Another cool one-syllable name option. Unlike other fanciful sounding names listed here, Myth has never charted, possibly because it could be hard for young children to pronounce–it does sound suspiciously like Miss with a lisp. Maybe not the most wearable choice, but it would certainly be unusual.
Novella - This might seem like clutching at straws, but there is something extremely attractive about the idea of Novella as a name. A novella is a short novel or long short story and is also a Latin name meaning ‘new,’ much like the name Nova. It has a long history of use for girls, and was a regular in the American charts from the 1880′s to the early 1940′s. You may well have a Novella in your family tree, and with Nova on the rise Novella may not be far behind.
Page – Page is generally accepted to have an occupational origin, but taken literally as a page from a book it would be a great literary themed name. Paige is one of my all time favourites and is much more popular than this spelling. But without the “i” it feels a little more masculine and more wearable for a boy, though it is currently more commonly used for girls.
Penn - Penn Badgley shot to fame on the CW hit Gossip Girl, and caused his name to triple in usage, going from about ten boys a year being named Penn to about thirty. This makes it pretty rare, but with the benefit of being recognisable, easy to spell and easy to pronounce. It also feels like one of the gentler one-syllable boys names that has simplicity without sharpness. And as we have all heard, the Penn is mightier than the sword!
Penna - A feminine version of Penn, meaning ‘feather’, this is a pretty, sleek and classic-but-friendly sounding name due to it’s similarity to names like Jenna. Also a great (and pretty unusual) nickname for Penelope. Penna recently gained some attention when actor Ian Ziering gave it to his daughter, but as of yet it hasn’t appeared on the American charts.
Poet – It’s not the most popular occupational name, but does have a certain charm. So far Poet‘s preferred use is for girls, having entered the charts in 2005 for girls but only appearing in 2007 and 2009 for boys–a good choice for an occupational name with a difference. Soleil Moon Frye used it for her daughter in 2005.
Quest – Q names generally aren’t super popular, but Quest is definitely one of the cooler Q options, in the American charts for boys since 1991. It “peaked” in 1998 when it was given to just thirty boys, the only year it has appeared in the charts for girls too. Quest has a modern, almost futuristic sound and could be among the next generation of one-syllable names. It feels closely related to Journey, and is also an oblique reference to adventure video games where characters often need to complete quests to advance in the game.
Saga - This word name meaning an extended story of heroic achievement comes from the Old Norse for ‘seeing one’. It’s been used rarely in the US, mostly for girls, influenced by Scandinavian countries, where Saga is a fairly popular name and also a goddess in Norse mythology. A good choice if you want a literary word name with a mythological reference.
Sonnet - A pretty name that evokes images of love and songbirds. William Shakespeare famously wrote sonnets (a fourteen line poem with a specific rhyming pattern), as did many other great poets. Nickname Sunny (or Sonny for the boys) is also an adorable option. May cause confusion when in English class, but is a sweet name nonetheless. Historically it’s only charted for girls but could work on a boy too. Forest Whitaker used it for one of his children.
Story – Story has been getting quite a bit of attention on the Nameberry forums in recent months. Generally the discussions sway more to the girls side, with Astoria often given as a possible way to get to Story as a nickname. Story has been seen on boys and girls since the 70′s, and in 2012 rose to position Number 1954 for girls, which is still a long, long way from the top 1000.
Wright - Sounds like write, but isn’t. This surname is derived from Wainwright, which means ‘wagon maker’. It has a great look and a preppy feel, and actually has a long history of use for boys. Unfortunately though it also sounds like right, which could be a little hard to live with.
With so many options, there are some true gems here just begging to be used. They would be great as a middle name theme for siblings, although some are too nice to be hidden as a middle name. Which ones are your favourites? Would you use them as first or middle names?
No, it’s your politics.
This week’s baby name news was packed with explanations for why we choose the names we do.
Some of the research rings true. We know that the parents’ age matters. So does where they live, their educational level, and lots of other demographic data. And hey, it’s more interesting to read all that analysis than, say, another essay dismissing unusual baby names as silly and self-indulgent.
The names in this week’s baby name news were all over the place, from the sweetly vintage to the thoroughly modern.
Call me crazy, but I think that great names can be chosen by any one, regardless of their background. The community of the name obsessed is diverse, incredibly welcoming, and forever surprising.