Category: unisex names for girls

Unisex Baby Names: Going to the boys

unisex baby names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

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 unisex baby names on Steve Ruble’s chart and beyond that are becoming more masculine include:


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.


Angel was used two-thirds of the time for girls in 1972 but by 2012, 83% of the children named Angel were boys, many of them of Hispanic descent.

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Unisex names and the question of whether a child’s gender should be evident via his or her name is one that comes up frequently on Nameberry.  It’s an issue that’s changed a lot over the years we’ve been writing about baby names and that varies substantially in different cultures.

Starting with the baby boomlet of the 1980s, the first wave of feminist parents gave girls androgynous names like Morgan and Parker to make them more competitive with boys…..while parents of boys abandoned unisex names in favor of more traditional masculine choices.   Next came names that broke away from traditional boy or girl choices — Logan and Lake, Bellamy and Finn — but still somehow held onto a gendered identity.

Despite vast changes in naming practices around the world, some ancient cultures accommodate names that work for either sex — Japan is a notable example — while other countries such as Norway require that names carry gender identity.  Germany changed its naming laws in 2008 to allow the use of unisex names.

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Unisex Names: Would you use one?


As more and more names are crossing gender divides, with girls being named Maxwell and Monroe, and boy and girl Eastons and Wests, Sages and Sawyers, we’re not surprised to find that among the most persistent topics on the Nameberry forums are those having to do with gender–with very strong opinions being voiced.  So today’s Question of the Week concerns unisex names:

Would/did you choose a name that’s given almost equally to both girls and boys?

Would/did you give your daughter a name more often used for a boy?

Would/did you give your son a name that has started drifting into the  girls’ column?  Does this matter to you?

Or would you only consider a name that’s distinctly masculine or feminine?

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A Girl Named Ellis

unisex names

On a recent trip through the South, I met two young sisters charmingly named Mason and Ellis.  Surname-names for girls are characteristic of the traditional South, where family last names have long been passed down as firsts to girls as well as boys.

Little girls might well have a conventional first name like Mary or Elizabeth, but their full name is Mary Ellis (say) and they’re known as Ellis.  The Mary or the Elizabeth might be mom and/or grandmother’s name; it’s the Ellis part that makes the name distinct.

Of course, surname-names are used for girls in many places beyond the American South these days, though not everyone likes the practice.  Boys’ names should be left to the boys, some feel, and girls’ names should be decidedly feminine, and unisex names are all-around unappealing.

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Baby Name Trends: Gender Benders


Kids who defy gender stereotypes – and how best to parent them – is a hot topic these days.  The New York Times recently featured a story on boys in tutus and girls with Mohawks on its front page.  And when the J. Crew catalog carried a photo spread of its fashion director painting her 4-year-old son’s toenails pink, it sparked an outpouring of both criticism and support.

Whatever your feeling about pedicures for boys, names that push the gender envelope are among the hottest baby name trends.  The most recent statistics on names making the biggest leaps up the popularity ladder show names that break with both feminine and masculine conventions leading the lists.

For both sexes, these include truly unisex names such as Quinn and Karter and names long favored for one sex jumping gender lines (Charlie going to the girls’ side and Terry to the boys’).   There are also girlish spins on boys’ names and vice versa, such as Danna and Jayleen for girls and Rhys and Emmett for boys.

And then there are the names that are used almost exclusively for one gender but carry qualities usually associated with the other: I’m thinking of the hard-edged Kinley or Kenzie for girls and the soft-sounding Greyson and Jasper for boys.

Here, 20 gender-bending names that crowd the tops of the fastest-rising lists for both girls and boys, in order of how many places they’ve moved up the ladder.


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