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Gender Neutral Boys’ Names

April 10, 2016 Abby Sandel

For years, conventional wisdom dictated that boys were named after their fathers and grandfathers. But today, boys are just as likely to be named after the important women in their lives.

Along with that shift comes a willingness to think differently about boys’ names. We’ve noted the rise of boy-girl equivalents, like Emma and Emmett, before. Now we’re more seeing boys with middle names that might have been reserved for girls just a few years ago.

If you’ve grown weary of celebrity birth announcements with names like James, Arlo, and Wyatt for girls, this could be a hopeful sign. As many berries have pointed out, names aren’t really unisex unless they can be used for both boys and girls equally.

From Anne Hathaway’s inventive smoosh to the tWitch Boss’s nature name pick, let’s look at the baby names in the news in recent weeks – and the way parents are choosing boy baby names that are fresh and new.

AsheAshley was huge for girls in the 1980s. Now that all of those Ashleys are naming babies themselves, Ash– names have become mainstream for boys again. Only they’re not the same names. Asher is a fast-rising choice for boys, and Ashton Kutcher made his name popular, too. As for Ashe, it’s the maiden name of Seth Meyers’ wife, attorney Alexi Ashe, and the name the couple chose for their new son together. Pokemon fans will also think of the series’ hero, trainer Ash Ketchum.

Olsen – The Meyers family chose Olsen as the middle name for their son, inspired by Seth Meyers’ mother’s maiden name. The late night talk show host declared that he “named his son after the two most important women in my life.”

Avery – We talked about Chris and Adrienne Bosh’s twin names for their new sons on our list of x-ending names for boys last week. But did you see the middles? Phoenix’s middle name, Avery, has been a Top 20 name for girls in recent years, but it’s holding steady in the US Top 200 for boys, too.

Noel – The French word for Christmas has been used as a given name for generations. Phoenix Avery’s brother is Lennox Noel. While Noel feels more conventionally masculine, and Noelle the more feminine spelling, it’s still a bold choice for the Bosh family.

Emerson – Names for Real frequently compiles lists of unisex names – names as they’re being used for boys and girls right now. It’s a good reminder that even though a name can be more popular for girls, it’s often still handsome on a son. Emerson is a great example. It’s a literary choice that brings to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson, and in combinations like Emerson Felicity and Emerson Walter, can work for a son or a daughter.

Brooks Noel/Noelle are two forms of the same name, but other boy-girl equivalents share sounds, but not origins. Tailored Brooke was a 1990s favorite; now surname Brooks is on the rise for boys. The Bachelor alum Ashley Salter recently welcomed son Brooks Hartman with fiancé Austin Brannen.

Laurel – Here’s another interesting choice of masculine middle: Laurel, as in Maddox Laurel, the name chosen by Stephen “tWitch” Boss and Allison Holker for their new son. Thanks to Laura and Lauren, Laurel tends to lean girl, but there’s no reason this nature name associated with victory couldn’t wear well for a son, too.

Rosebanks – We expected Anne Hathaway to stick to the classics. She didn’t disappoint, naming her new son Jonathan. But the middle name is a surprise. Hathaway and husband Adam Shulman borrowed names from important women in their lives to create their son’s middle. Rose comes from Anne’s grandmother, Roseline, while Banks is Adam’s mother’s maiden name. It’s dad’s middle, too. The result is a preppy-sounding smoosh name that’s unusual and rich with meaning.

Are there any family names honoring women that you’d consider for a son? How about names that feel truly unisex in 2016?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

View all of Abby's articles

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