Gender Neutral Boys’ Names
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.
Ashe – Ashley 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?
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on April 10th, 2016 at 11:24 pm
I just don’t see Laurel working well for a son. Maybe it’s because I’m a Laura. But still. I guess it could be somewhat of an homage to Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy, but that almost feels like you’d be reducing your child to a caricature.
on April 10th, 2016 at 11:52 pm
Parents have been bestowing the maiden names of mothers and grandmothers on their sons since medieval times. Seth Meyers naming his son Ashe Olsen does not serve as evidence of a move toward “post-gender naming.” Parents using masculine names for their sons (Brooks and Emerson, for example) also does not serve as evidence of “post-gender naming.”
on April 11th, 2016 at 12:05 am
I thought Noel and Noelle were two different pronunciations. Noelle like No-elle and Noel like No-l with a long o sound like Joel. If I am wrong, how do you spell the male name pronounced No-l?
on April 11th, 2016 at 9:44 am
I agree totally with southernmaple and nativoyoung-you are correct btw. Noel rhymes with Joel. It’s a masculine name.
This article is very irritating to me. Firstly all of those names except for Laurel, which I see as truly unisex as it’s a nature name, are just boy’s names as far as I’m concerned. Even Ashley-where in the UK it is mostly just masculine.
To imply we are moving towards post-gender naming because someone used a MALE name for a MALE child is pretty silly. It’s like saying that because my friend gave. her son the male name Stephan it shows we’re heading to gender neutral naming in society-because Stephan is similar to Stephanie! Noel for a boy being described as a bold choice. It’s laughable.
Sorry but sometimes the articles on this website are amazing, other times they’re pretty head-shakingly ridiculous.
on April 11th, 2016 at 10:48 am
I would have to agree with previous posters. None of this is really post-gender naming. Actually, it probably demonstrates how gendered naming still is (and how wrapped in patriarchy it is) that Emerson, Ashe, Olsen, Brooks, and Noel are even on this list. Post-gendered naming would be naming your son Adele, Tabitha, Catherine, Elizabeth, Delilah, or Natalia.
on April 11th, 2016 at 10:56 am
I’ve considered Laurel for a son. It does have a history of use for boys from 1900-1930, just like other names on this list. I don’t think the celebs using them are tapping a trend toward the neutral at all.
on April 11th, 2016 at 11:27 am
An interesting article although I can see why some posters disagree. Maybe if the article was titled different and was more about naming sons after females. I did find Anne Hathaway and Seth Myers’ sons being named after female family members very refreshing. But yes, they don’t really ring true to “gender neutral”.
I, myself, am finding that names I used to only like for girls, I’m now preferring equally or even better on boys. I don’t know if it’s a Nameberry influence, getting older or what, but I love opening up myself up to new names.
on April 11th, 2016 at 12:47 pm
@nativoyoung Noel is pronounced both ways: Noel like Joel as well as Noel like Noelle (but the masculine version) like in the Christmas carol “The First Noel.”
on April 11th, 2016 at 2:09 pm
All the names listed in this post are male. Therefore, there is no ‘post-gender’ name trend that is being showcased here. If anything, this article is broadcasting that there is no such thing!
To my mind, post-gender naming would be reviewing a potential revival of old masculine classics that are now almost (if not entirely) synonymous with femininity, such as; Evelyn, Meredith, Shirley and Vivian. Or better yet, advertising entirely feminine options such as Lily, Sophia, Adelaide and Vanessa for boys. – THAT would have been an interesting article. But this article is not that, and in terms of its title, has completely missed the mark. Out of the dozens, potentially hundreds of articles advertising and congratulating masculine names on girls, it would have been nice to have seen one that featured the other side of the spectrum. It’s a shame, and I admit that I am disappointed.
on April 11th, 2016 at 3:53 pm
Jonathan Rosebanks hits all the right notes for me – strong, handsome, sweet, and classic. I also love Ash.
on April 11th, 2016 at 5:20 pm
Opinions on whether or not this post features “post-gender names” aside, Phoenix Avery and Lennox Noel are such lovely name combinations and stunning sibling/twin set! Chris and Adrienne Bosh (whoever they are- I’m not familiar with these celebrities) have great taste in names.
on April 13th, 2016 at 4:03 pm
I came out of this article quite disappointed.
on April 13th, 2016 at 8:45 pm
Hm… I quite like the idea of unisex naming, but most of these are masculine names that have been recently given to girls or are similar to a feminine name and are -shocker- also still being used for boys. Emerson even has the -son ending.
Laurel I think is a cool option, it brings to mind both Lauren, but also Caesar…
Other options I could see working for a boy (will pair them with a middle just for funsies, and to give them a masculine twist – because when reading a bunch of them together, they definitely sound like sisters – last):
Jillian Nicholas Lastname
Leonor Abraham Lastname
Adelade Carter Lastname
Farah Miguel Lastname
Tamzin Theodore Lastname
Ferelith Benjamin Lastname
January David Lastname
Abrial Edward Lastname
Earhart James Lastname (surname name, but -)
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