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Boy Names for Girls & New Names for Boys

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Once again, a famous couple has chosen a favorite boy’s name for their newborn daughter.  Last Thursday, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher welcomed Wyatt Isabelle.

Some parents of baby boy Wyatts are nervous.  Will Wyatt go girl?  Others who had shortlisted Wyatt for a possible child someday might be rethinking.  No one wants to introduce their child and have another mom respond, “Oh, like Ashton and Mila’s baby?”

The kerfuffle reminds me of singer Michelle Branch.  In 2005, at the height of her success, she married her bass player and had a daughter called Owen Isabelle.  Owen remained a Top 100 choice for boys in the US – gaining more than 20 places since – and is barely a blip for girls.

Jessica Simpson’s Maxwell arrived in 2012 – one of 8 baby girl Maxwells, compared to 3,211 boys.  In 2013, there were more than three times as many girls called Maxwell – but that’s still just 26 arrivals.  Meanwhile, 3,607 boys received the name.

The good news?  It takes a lot more than a celebrity baby to change our perceptions of a name’s gender.

At the peak of popularity, many a masculine favorite – think Logan, Ryan, Dylan – ends up on some girls’ birth certificates.  But once a name is solidly established for our sons, it’s just that – a boy’s name given to a girl.

Dig a little deeper, and there’s good news in this week’s high profile baby names.  Three new arrivals have names that are both masculine and original.

While a musical couple went the same route as Mila and Ashton, other families took a more conventional approach to naming a girl.  One choice is vintage, the other modern – but both feel like the right choices for 2014.

The nine most interesting baby names in the news this week are:

Sienna May – Actress Ellen Pompeo is best known as Meredith Grey on long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy.  Now she and husband Chris Ivery have welcomed a second daughter.  Big sister Stella Luna is joined by Sienna May.  Stella is a vintage pick, a nineteenth and early twentieth century name returned to favor in the last decade.  Sienna is a newcomer, seldom heard before the 1990s.  Despite this difference, together they sound like sisters.

Stella June – Speaking of Stella, it’s the name chosen by Holly Williams and Chris Coleman for their firstborn.  Country singer Holly is the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., and husband Chris is also a musician.  The couple stuck with names from their family tree – and yet Stella June is so on-trend, you can imagine many families choosing it for style alone.

Wyatt Isabelle – No word on why Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis went with Wyatt for their daughter’s first name.  It’s a Top 100 choice since 2004, a rugged, all-boy favorite, thanks to legendary lawman of the American West, Wyatt Earp.  The classic Isabelle anchors Wyatt nicely, making it clear(ish) that it is Miss Kutcher, thankyouverymuch.  Wyatt joins dozens of Hollywood babes with gender-bending names, like Kelsey Grammer’s Mason Olivia and Jason Lee’s Casper Alice.

Devon Olivia – The Kunis-Kutcher family wasn’t the only one to borrow from the boys this week.  Rascal Flatts’ guitarist Joe Don Rooney – yes, that’s his real name – and wife Tiffany Fallon are now the parents of three: son Jagger Donovan, daughter Raquel Blue, and newest addition, daughter Devon Olivia.  File Devon with Ryan and Logan – names that have always been more popular for boys, even though a sizeable number of girls have worn the name.

Lennon – Here’s the next Devon.  My Name is Pabst featured a musician’s kid called Lennon.  Just like most bearers of the name, this Lennon is a boy.  But the number of girls named Lennon is growing, possibly thanks to the musical Lennon Stella, a young actress currently appearing as Maddie Conrad on Nashville.

Chester William – Looking for names that are all-boy and not likely to be heard on a girl?  Take the approach used by UK television presenter Holly Willoughby.  Holly and husband Dan Baldwin are parents of three: Belle, Harry, and newborn Chester William.  It’s a clunky-cool name, one that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson gave to their son way back in 1990.  Jazzy nickname Chet makes this one even more wearable.

Fletcher – Thanks to Waltzing More than Matilda for sharing this piece of Aussie celebrity name news.  Cricket player Ricky Ponting and wife Rianna also welcomed their third child recently.  Big sisters Emmy and Matisse are joined by Fletcher.  Like Archer and Arrow, Fletcher is another name borrowed from archery, from the Old French word fleche – arrow.  This one feels preppy and buttoned-down, but new and unexpected, too.

Fordham Rhys – Along the same lines, there’s surname name Fordham.  Bachelorette alum Ashley Hebert and husband J.P. Rosenbaum met on the reality matchmaking show, and have now welcomed their first child, Fordham Rhys.  New York’s Fordham University lends this choice a certain collegiate style. Chances are the name will be shortened to Ford – another all-boy choice.

Beckham Ellis James – Speaking of surname names, Beckham Ellis James appeared on the September Babyberry Report.  Liam, Fordham, Beckham, Graham, Adam, Abraham, and Abram – is ‘am’ the new ‘en’?  Maybe not, but seeing these two names together is a good reminder that there are fresh and interesting possibilities for our sons – we just have to find them.

What do you think of the tendency to use boys’ names for girls?  And do you think it is pushing parents to find newer, different names for boys?  

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19 Responses to “Boy Names for Girls & New Names for Boys”

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indiefendi Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 12:13 am

I’m gonna wait this boy to girl thing out. I’m dead set on Dylan for a girl but nothing is safe anymore! When the Calebs and Benjamins and what nots of America start going pink will the Emmas and Sophias go blue?

lcd1912 Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 12:22 am

Sienna May – is a little too close to sister Stella in my opinion

Wyatt Isabelle – don’t like Wyatt on either gender personally

Devon Olivia – I know a lot more girls named Devon and Ryan than I do boys and they’re all in their 20’s. I do remember being shocked when I met my first girl Logan though.

Fletcher – so nerdy sounding in my opinion!

Fordham Rhys – I think this a really awesome combo. Forde has been on my list for a long time (It’s a family surname) but I haven’t had good feedback…maybe now I will? If I didn’t live so close to Fordham University I would highly consider it.

Beckham Ellis James -Another handsome, awesome combo. Who doesn’t love David Beckham?! James is my all-time favorite. Ellis…I’m kind of over El- names (I can’t even tell you how many Ellie/Ella/Elle newborns I have met recently) but Ellis is really cool

Tara Wood Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 4:32 am

Great article, Abby!

Personally, I don’t love ‘boy’ names for girls. On the upside, though, it does seem to encourage parents to look for more ‘masculine’ names for boys or stick with classic boy names-William, Henry, Charles, Arthur- which I LOVE!

britkarma Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 6:35 am

Personally, I find it very constricting and not OK when people try and put so many limits on naming. There is no limits. As long as you’re not out there naming your kid Asswiper or I’muglyassin, I don’t think others should be so negative about what your childs name is.

I do not feel it is OK or right to do this!!

I love love love love boys names on girls. All of them, any of them, NONE are safe. I also love unisex names on boys. Society will NOT be telling me what is right or wrong when it comes to naming my child. I sincerely hope Wyatt does make the jump too, since it’s a very floral/flimsy/feminine like name anyway, I’ve always though. Same with most W names.

miloowen Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 9:36 am

Firstly, it should be There are no limits, lol. Surely there are some limits? I know two brothers named Sir Jones and Lord Jones. I knew a girl named Chandelier. What’s wrong with normative names spelled correctly? I grew up with a traditionally boy’s name, and I hated it. I was teased all the time and I still hate the name. On top of that, it’s a name not easily said in other languages — and my work took me to Europe all the time.

I just think Wyatt is ugly-sounding. And Wyatt Earp was a sociopath, sort of like naming your kid after Ted Bundy or something.

skizzo Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 10:36 am

Tara:
“it does seem to encourage parents to look for more ‘masculine’ names for boys or stick with classic boy names-William, Henry, Charles, Arthur- which I LOVE!”

And this is EXACTLY why boy names on girls are a problem. So now we’re stuck between macho type of boy names like Choker, Ford or Danger, or overused boring classics like the names you used above. No thanks. What about those of us that like softer names for boys, like Peyton, Skyler, Riley, Taylor, Sage or Reese? We have to stop using them because parents cant keep their claws off from softer boy names because it would be “sooooo cute!” on a girl. And now ever more rugged choices like Wyatt are being used, where do you draw the line? What bugs me the most, is we wont be meeting boys named Ella or Layla anytime soon will we…

skizzo Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 10:38 am

@britkarma: I suggest you name your daughter William, that feminine, girly sounding name that starts with a W too.

clairels Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

@Skizzo Who’s telling you “have” to stop using Skyler or Riley for boys? For that matter, what’s preventing you from naming your son Allison or Lindsay or Evelyn? Many parents are still using these unisex names for sons and will continue to do so. One celebrity choosing Wyatt for a girl won’t “steal” that name or make it suddenly, irrevocably off-limits for boys, forever.

Let’s face it, the only thing that’s preventing more people from using these names for boys is people who sit around complaining but are too afraid to put their money where their mouth is and use these names for boys.

southern.maple Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

@britkarma: Get back to me when you’ve named your son Elizabeth and your daughter John.

JH Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 8:17 pm

I cannot stand boy names on girls (or the other way around). I don’t like unisex names, so names that aren’t normally unisex (like Wyatt) I really don’t like. I prefer traditional names. Feel free to name your kid what you want, I don’t have to like it, but I won’t ever tell you that. We all have our preferences.

jtucker Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 8:22 pm

I am not a fan of boy names on girls, never have been never will be. I would not let Wyatt being used by Kutcher and Kunis stop me from using it for a boy, if I was so inclined. However, as southern.maple pointed out, how many people that use boy names for girls would be willing to use a girl name for a boy?

I know that it is trendy to use boy names on girls, however, putting a feminine middle with a masculine first on a girl doesn’t really make it distinguishable in my personal opinion. When you are called for in attendance the teacher says first name, last name; not first middle and last.

frustratedauthor Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Many of us have stated this ad nauseum, but I’ll say it once again. The problem many users here have with this trend is that it only seems to go one way. When Wyatt or Max pop up on girls lists, many people call it spunky or edgy or super-cute. But if a mother names her son Avery or Gale, they often get derided for it. I have experienced this in the past when I was making a list for future use.

claraminta Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 9:12 pm

I don’t think names being used on girls should prevent you from using them on boys as well. I love Cassidy for a boy and would totally use it because why is it so bad to have a feminine name if you’re a guy? Girls “taking over” boys names doesn’t mean less options for boys!

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 9:26 pm

I’d be seriously surprised if Wyatt became more popular for girls than boys because of the Kutchers – one celebrity couple does not a trend make.

I’ve also seen celebrities pick names for their sons that are more common for girls than boys, and people don’t get nearly so upset about it. Nor do I hear parents say, “Oh I can’t use the name Harper for my daughter now because a celebrity just used it for their son”.

I’ve seen celebrities call their sons Willow, Mackenzie, Harper, Harlow, Sunday, and Addison, and nobody seems terribly concerned. And it hasn’t made any difference to the names’ popularity for girls, either.

PeachyOwl Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 9:28 pm

I don’t get boy names on girls. Personally I dislike them and find it a very sexist trend. However, if you already have a daughter called Riley or Wyatt I’m not going to tell you what I think of your kids names or say it’s child abuse or something ridiculous like that because it’s rude. Also I don’t think that everyone with daughters with boys names is sexist.
I do think that the Nameberry blog is dwelling on this trend too much. Even if I did like a trend, if you did feature after feature on frilly girl names for example, I think I would get pretty bored by the third post. In my opinion this blog needs more variety, we understand that this is a celebrity trend, some like it, some don’t, but I think we need to move on from “boy names on girls”. And why do we need to always take our naming advice from celebrities. Should celebrity trends always be viewed in a positive light?
I don’t mean any offence to Pam and Linda by saying this, I just think that a blog with more variety would reflect the extremely diverse naming styles on this site better.

SparkleNinja18 Says:

October 6th, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Mila and Ashton’s baby was born on Tuesday. Her name was released Thursday.

RachelLewis Says:

October 7th, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I really don’t understand why people have to give their girls boys names?? Why, there are so many nice names for girls but there are limited boys names.. Can someone explain to me why, please!

vicioustrollop9 Says:

October 8th, 2014 at 8:29 am

@frustratedauthor I’ve experienced this myself as well. I adore the name Whitney for a boy – it was initially a surname that was then used on boys, only to become popular for girls in the 1930s and 40s. Everytime I have it on a list, the comment is basically “this is too feminine” or “this is a girl’s name”. Ugh.

Ashley, Leslie, Carol, Meredith, Lindsey, Lynn, Kelly, Shannon, Courtney, Lane, Dana.

Would you name your son any of these names? They used to be masculine names, but now I feel most people would stay away from them because they are “too feminine”. Because being feminine is apparently a bad thing. That is the huge problem I have with this trend, is that it is rooted in sexism. I’m not saying everyone who chooses a traditionally masculine name for their daughter (Wyatt, Maxwell, James, Dillon) is sexist, but you have to wonder why it can’t work both ways. If you are willing to name a daughter James, why would you not be willing to name a son Mary.

J_Anne Says:

October 20th, 2014 at 10:10 am

I always feel like this hesitance to use a name on boys after it has become somewhat popular for girls is a remnant of sexism. I mean, its okay for someone to briefly think that your daughter Ryan is your son Ryan, but you would have some issue if someone thought your son Avery was your daughter Avery. I mean obviously it isn’t a conscious thought like that, and I don’t think that parents who don’t use unisex names, for whatever reason, are sexist. But avoiding names that are have become unisex for boys in my opinion, implies that being mistaken for a girl is an insult. The fact that names never go from girl to boy is also troubling (with a few exceptions, Douglas, which I believe started out as a girls name and Artemis, which is used on boys now).
Name your kids something you like, and yeah be aware of the sort of perceptions that exist about that name (I would hate for someone to name their kid Bentio and not be aware of the former dictator) but don’t rule out names because of gender.
Note- I’m not saying that people who don’t like unisex names are bad or sexist, but a wide-spread cultural idea that once a name is used for girls it can no longer be used for boys, or that girl names can not be used for boys, is to me an indication of sexism.

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