Boys to Girls–Baby Name Gender Switches

Let’s say you have a two-year-old son named Connor.  Then suddenly you wake up one morning and see that Scarlett Superstar has just named her new baby daughter Connor.  And the thought runs through your mind–omg!!–are thousands of other parents now going to follow her lead and name their little girls Connor?  Is this the end of Connor as a boy’s name?

To the horror of many parents of boys, it can and sometimes does happen.  Think about Addison and Avery and Jordan and Morgan and all the other gender blurring  we’ve seen in recent years–and sometimes it is a single starbaby who has, if not incited the trend, at least accelerated it. A few once strictly-male names that fit this profile:

BAILEY–somewhat used for girls since the 80s, but really popped after several celebs chose it.

DYLAN–never heard as a girl’s name until Mia Farrow used it for her daughter in 1985, with the Sean Penns following suit in 1991–it’s now fully accepted as a female option.

EMERSONTeri Hatcher’s daughter was born in 1997, but the name didn’t really take off until all the publicity surrounding the mega-success of Mom’s show Desperate Housewives.

FINLEY –used by Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn in 2003, hopped onto the girls’ popularity list in 2005.

ROWAN–the Irish surname chosen by Brooke Shields in 2003 that led to hundreds of baby girl Rowans born last year.

To a lesser degree, this can happen with a celebrity’s own name too.  Although Glenn Close and Daryl Hannah didn’t do much to alter the gender images of their names, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Reese Witherspoon certainly did–there were over 2,300 girls named Reese last year.

So, which celebrity-endorsed boy-to-girl names have had or will have a lasting impact?











Those that could:








Those that probebly won’t (though you never know):










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17 Responses to “Boys to Girls–Baby Name Gender Switches”

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Annie Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 5:20 am

Hmm. Rowan is a female name in Scotland, always has been. There were female characters in books called Rowan long before Brooke Shields named her daughter Rowan. She may have brought it to people’s attention, but she did not turn it from a male to female name.

namefan Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 10:22 am

There are several names mentioned in this blog that I like for a boy, and would still not hesitate to use them as such. I think the important thing to know if you’re considering one of these names for a boy is to know that it [b]is[/b] now used for both genders (hence the descriptions given by these authors in the name entries). What that means is I don’t think you should let the unisex factor deter you if you don’t mind it, but just know that he may run into females with the same name as him. Indeed, as mentioned on the discussion board there seems to be more names these days holding on to their unisexness rather than quickly drifting to nearly exclusively female territory as what has happened in the past. Perhaps the idea of a less macho boy is becoming more acceptable and in some cases preferred by some parents.

linda Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Thanks, Annie–I stand corrected.

namefan Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Two things I want to clarify from my original post:

I was trying to bold the word “is” that is in the [b][/b] tags, assuming that would bold it. It didn’t, so I wanted to mention that (is there any way to format text on here, and if so what is the correct way to do it?).

When I mentioned how there’s several names mentioned here that I like for boys, some of them I like for girls too (I don’t let the gender issue bother me too much within reason).

tommiethemommie Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Ok…I have really been worried that this may happen to a name I am considering for a boy…Carson…Any thoughts or opinions on this name potentionally “crossing over” ?

namefan Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Last year Carson ranked #90 on the boy’s SSA list and wasn’t in the top 1000 for girls (although it was in the past). I think that Carson will probably remain predominately a boy’s name unless something causes it to catch on for girls (actress with that name, celebrity daughter with that name, or a high-profile TV or movie female character with that name), and even then I think it would probably end up being a “true unisex” name at worst. If you like the name Carson for a boy go for it!

pam Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 6:43 pm

It seems logical that a name that ends in “son” would remain in the boy’s camp — though Madison and Addison (and Allison and Ellison and even Mason!) sort of automatically prove me wrong. And then there’s the (female) writer Carson McCullers. So I guess if you want a name that’s guaranteed to stay more boyish, better go for something like Charles….

linda Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 7:41 pm

In our next book, Beyond Ava & Aiden (coming out in the spring), we have a long, nuanced chapter on naming boys, in which we confront all the issues and considerations involved–more than we can really get to in a blog.

namefan Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Someone was asking about the name Rowan earlier; I found a page that discusses this name and mentions the gender debate about it (if the link below doesn’t work simply copy and paste the URL into your browser):

Rowan happens to be among my favorites; although I don’t mind it for either gender (given that it is truly unisex both in history and current usage) I’d probably be more likely to use it for a boy.

kate_elizabeth Says:

December 1st, 2008 at 10:02 pm

That’s funny that you mention Carson as a crossover name (or hoping it won’t become one, I should say).. I know of a little girl named Carsyn born in April… She was originally going to be called Meadow but they decided on Carsyn instead… I have a huge problem with both names but that’s a discussion for another time and place completely…

Here’s a link to her birth announcement:

On another note, we’ve had some interesting names lately in our newspaper… Recently a little boy was named Farmer Dell… My mom noted that maybe they were fans of the song “Farmer in the dell…” lol

Drew Says:

December 5th, 2008 at 4:20 pm

I have always been against girls being named boys names, perhaps that’s because my name is Drew and I grew up with Drew Barrymore in ET. Thankfully there have been enough male Drew’s to balance it. The main reason I am against it though is that once a boy name goes girl, it is hard to reclaim it. Rarely does a girl’s name cross over to being a boy name – though my grandfather Jesse is named after one of his great aunts.

But it doesn’t have to be a starbaby that will start the trend, sometimes it just happens.

Shelly Says:

December 9th, 2008 at 9:23 pm

I think it matters to some people that their children have appropriate names for their gender. I am a little disappointed that my lovely mother gave me a unsex name. Shelly is the name of two boys I grew up with! I gave my daughter the name of Marena. Very much a girl’s name. I am curious as to why MacKenzie wasn’t on this list of gender bouncing names, though.

Elizabeth Says:

December 10th, 2008 at 5:49 pm

I like the name Evan for a girl, though most books list it under boys names. there is one actress Evan Rachel Wood and one Bill Cosby’s daughters is named Evin. I plan to put it with a feminine middle name so she has some options if she wants when she’s older.

Krysta Says:

December 15th, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Hudson is my favorite name for a girl. When I was in college, I babysat for a little girl with this name and it has remained my favorite ever since. I fully intend to use it for a future daughter. I love Carson for a girl as well.

Ashley SP Says:

December 16th, 2008 at 10:55 pm

I’m really intrigued to see Atherton on your possibility list! My sons middle name was Atherton and I lobbied long and hard for it to be his first name–even if he was a girl.

I think Atherton would be a fantastic name for either gender.

Nameberry blog about gender-switching names « Babynamelover’s Blog Says:

October 9th, 2009 at 2:34 am

Louelle Says:

October 9th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Not the point of the article but let’s just say Connor became predominantly a ‘female’ name, I’d think I was time for me to depart this planet.

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