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Unisex Baby Names: Names that morphed from blue to pink

unisex baby names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

Some unisex baby names start as female choices and shift over time to become more boyish, but many more begin as all-boy names and over the decades cross to the girls’ side.

The baby names here are extreme cases.  Most started life, back when the US government began recording babies’ names, as 100% male choices, and now have become mostly girls’ names.

While we were tempted to narrow the field to only those dozen names that went from 100% male to 100% female, the entire list proved just too interesting to cut.

The baby names that have morphed from blue to pink – and when they made their big switch – include:

Addison

100% male in 1880, 98% female in 2012

Jumped to 55% female in 1996

Alexis

100% male in 1882, 77% female in 2012

In 1942, Alexis leaped to 69% female from 42%

Allison

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2012

From 1942-1948 it jumped from 52% to 80% female

Ashley

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2012

Crossed the line in 1965 to become 64% female

Aubrey

100% male in 1880, 98% female in 2012

In 1974, tipped to 52% female

Avery

100% male in 1880, 81% female in 2012

Became 52% female in 1999

Bailey

100% male in 1880, 97% female in 2012

Began its rise in 1980 when it was 64% female

Beverly

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2012

While Beverly started out in the US statistics as all boy, it quickly moved to the female side, becoming 55% girls by 1898.

Billie

100% male in 1880, 88% female in 2012

As early as 1890, this was 55% female

Blair

100% male in 1881, 83% female in 2012

Shift began in 1981 at 57% female

Brook

100% male in 1915, 87% female in 2012

In 1972, rose to 60% female, influenced by the more feminine Brooke

Cassidy

100% male in 1968, 96% female in 2012

In 1972, Cassidy became 59% female

Charley

100% male in 1880, 87% female in 2012

The balanced tipped in 1987 when Charley became 51% female

Dana

100% male in 1880, 92% female in 2012

In 1955 Dana became 50% female

Darcy

100% male in 1915, 94% female in 2012

Became mostly a girls’ name in 1941, at 60%

Diamond

100% male in 1897, 95% female in 2012

Though it was used as a female name early on, the continual increase began in 1976 at 57%.

Emery

100% male in 1880, 80% female in 2012

In 1996, Emery was 50/50

Gale

100% male in 1883, 100% female in 2012

Gale crossed the 50% mark in 1939

Hadley

100% male in 1906, 98% female in 2012

Hadley shifted to being a majority girls’ name consistently in 1969

Harper

100% male in 1881, 95% female in 2012

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Harper’s gender identity kept shifting but it tipped toward the girls’ side consistently starting in 1991.

Haven

100% male in 1899, 82% female in 2012

The scales tipped in 1980 at 51% female

Hilary

100% male in 1882, 100% female in 2012

In 1944, Hilary crossed the gender line toward the girls’ side for good

Kelley

100% male in 1882, 75% female in 2012

1954 marked Kelley’s crossing to the girls’ side

Kelsey

100% male in 1891, 98% female in 2012

Kelsey’s gender identity kept shifting throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but in the early 70s it crossed permanently to the girls’ side.

Kendall

100% male in 1906, 86% female in 2012

Kendall and Kendal were mostly male names until the 1980s, when they began veering into female territory, tipping permanently in the early 1990s.

Kennedy

100% male in 1912, 95% female in 2012

Kennedy was only 35% female in 1992 but the next year it jumped to 62% female

Kim

100% male in 1912, 91% female in 2012

Kim was quietly used for both boys and girls until the mid-50s, when it jumped to the female side.

Lauren

100% male in 1884, 100% female in 2012

In 1945 it crossed permanently to the girls’ side thanks to the very feminine Lauren Bacall.

Leigh

100% male in 1882, 86% female in 2012

In 1947, Leigh became 52% female.

Lesley

100% male in 1882, 100% female in 2012

Shifted in 1941 at 54%.  The Leslie spelling, interestingly, was less thoroughly male in 1880 and is less thoroughly female now; it crossed to the girls’ side in 1946.

Lindsay

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2012

It began flirting with androgyny in the late 1940s but tipped permanently to the female side in 1966.  The Lindsey spelling crossed over in 1969.

London

100% male in 1886, 87% female in 2012

London was used for both sexes throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, but crossed mostly to the girls’ side in 1990.

Lynn

86% male in 1880, 78% female in 2012

In 1942 it was 56% female

Madison

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2012

A quietly-used name almost always for boys until 1986, when Splash made it a female star.

Marley

100% male in 1914, 87% female in 2012

Very quietly used, mostly for boys, until the mid-1960s when it emerged as mostly a girls’ name.

Mckenzie

100% male in 1917, 99% female in 2012

There were no female McKenzies until 1975, and then by 1976 it was two-thirds female.

Mckinley

100% male in 1890, 89% female in 2012

Mckinley crossed the gender divide permanently in 1998, thanks to the popularity of both Mackenzie and Kinley.

Meredith

100% male in 1883, 100% female in 2012

Although the earliest Merediths were male, the name gained significant female use from 1910 on and crossed the gender line permanently in 1921.

Michele

100% male in 1905, 86% female in 2012

Michele’s early use as a male name can be pegged to ethnicity; it crossed to majority female I 1931 in the US.

Milan

100% male in 1885, 72% female in 2012

1996 was when Milan hit the 50% girls mark

Monroe

100% male in 1880, 78% female in 2012

This longtime male name only began a significant shift to the girls’ side in 2009.

Morgan

100% male in 1880, 89% female in 2012,

With the rise of actress Morgan Fairchild, tipped in 1980 to 60% female

Paris

100% male in 1991, 93% female in 2012

This mythological male name first achieved majority-female status in the early 1960s, but didn’t become a mostly-girls’ name until the 1980s.

Payton

100% male in 1880, 83% female in 2012

Payton and Peyton both became used more often for girls than boys in 1992, though the Payton spelling is now 83% female while Peyton is 68% female.

 

Presley

100% male in 1880, 92% female in 2012

Spiked from mostly male to 80% female in 1990

Quinn

100% male in 1915, 86% female in 2012

The Glee character made this 51% female in 2010

Reagan

100% male in 1913, 93% female in 2012

Tipped toward the female side in 1973 with the popularity of The Exorcist.

Reese

100% male in 1880, 84% female in 2012

Reese did not become used for more girls than boys until 2003, with the rise of Reese Witherspoon’s celebrity.

Sandy

100% male in 1880, 91% female in 2012

In 1935, Sandy was 50/50.

Shannon

100% male in 1881, 78% female in 2012

Shannon crossed the 50% mark for the first time in 1929 and within the next decade became primarily a girls’ name.

Shelby

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2012

In 1936, Shelby jumped from a mostly-male to an 88% female name.

Shelly

100% male in 1882, 100% female in 2012

1937 was the year Shelly became 51% female

Skylar

100% male in 1959, 88% female in 2012

In 1994, Skylar crossed to 52% female.  The Skyler spelling has never been maority female.

Stacy

100% male in 1880, 91% female in 2012

Stacey crossed the gender line permanently in 1952.

Stevie

100% male in 1919, 83% female in 2012

Rocker Stevie Nicks tipped this name to the girls’ side in 1983

Sydney

100% male in 1880, 98% female in 2012

Sydney began to be used significantly for girls in the 1930s and crossed the halfway line permanently in the early 1940s.

Taylor

100% male in 1881, 85% female in 2012

1990 was the year Taylor became 52% female

Whitney

100% male in 1884, 99% female in 2012

Whitney crossed the line in 1962, when it jumped from 41% to 72% female.

Thanks to our intern Denise Potter for her research help in pulling together all these statistics, and to Steve Ruble for creating our awesome unisex names chart that lets all of us track the gender changes of names over time.

Photos from The Pink and Blue Project by JeongMee Yoon.

 

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