Choosing Unisex Twin Names
Unisex twin names are this week’s challenge. Jane and her wife are expecting boy/girl twins, and hope to find two gender-neutral nicknames. Their daughter’s name is set, so let’s help them with a great name for their son.
My wife and I are expecting! We have an unusual dilemma. Both of us love traditional feminine/masculine names – Rosemary, Isaac, Oliver, Ada, etc. – but we want to give our child room for more freedom in gender expression. We plan to do that by choosing a traditionally gendered name that has a gender-neutral nickname. That way, if our little Alexander grows up to be an Alexandra, then at least we’ll have given her the option of the neutral “Alex” along the way.
When we learned my wife was pregnant, we already had a few options for a female/assigned female at birth baby:
However, we learned recently that my wife is actually having twins! Mazel Tov to us! We’ve decided that the girl will be Edith Marigold (potentially “Eddie“), but the other will be a boy, and as such, we have no traditionally-masculine-name-with-gender-neutral-nickname to bestow upon him.
The Name Sage responds:
Mazel Tov indeed!
I think you’ve found a great strategy for naming your children: more classic first and middles, with flexible built-in nicknames.
Here’s why you’re stuck.
In American English names, gender-neutral usually means “a conventionally masculine choice sometimes used for girls.”
Which means your pool of unisex twin names for your daughter? Deep and varied. For your son, though? Not so much.
In general, there are three possible categories of unisex names for our sons.
The Alex names – traditional picks that share a nickname with a feminine form. These sound like what you probably have in mind, except you aren’t listing Alexander/Alexandra or Joseph/Josephine, so I’m guessing that’s not quite what you’re after.
The Ezra names – their history makes them masculine, and most parents use them that way. But their sound opens the door to considering them for our daughters, too, and so they slowly become at least slightly unisex over time.
The Rowan names – the more modern choices, seldom heard in the US much before the twenty-first century. Again, they tend to read more masculine, but they’re often used in big numbers for girls, too. Word names like River can fit in the same category.
I’ll take a few from each group, because your girls’ list demonstrates that you’re looking for something that’s more than utilitarian. It needs some style – as well as whole lot of multi-tasking function.
UNISEX TWIN NAMES FOR EDDIE‘S BROTHER
ARI – With names like Aria and Ariana big for our daughters, Ari might seem like a feminine nickname. And yet, it’s a long-standing Hebrew name meaning lion, as well as Old Norse for eagle. That’s quite fierce! For your family, Ari might be short for Arthur, Arlo, Artemis, or any other name with a strong ‘ar’ sound.
ADDY – Atticus fits with Edith, an old school name that feels fresh and appealing now. I’ve heard Atticus shortened to Atti, which sounds like Addy. That takes it closer to so many popular choices for girls in recent years, from Addison to Adeline. Except Eddie and Addy sound a little too matched for siblings.
CAL – Cal easily becomes Callie, and formal names for Cal abound. On the more traditional side, there’s Calvin and Caleb, as well as Callum. Americans have overlooked Callum, but the Scottish name would fit right in. It has a great meaning, too – dove.
CHARLIE – As with Alex and Jo, I’m sure you’ve considered Charlie. But consider this: it’s actually split almost 50/50 between boys and girls. More boys are Charles … but then some girls are Charlotte-called-Charlie, and lots of girls are Charlee, Charli, and Charleigh, too. Give it another dozen years or so, and Charlie won’t feel automatically masculine.
LUX – Luke and Lucy names abound, both traditional and popular. Lucas ranks in the US Top Ten, so maybe Lucian fits with the girls’ names on your list. As for Lux, it’s Latin for light, and it’s tough to pin to a gender. There’s minor (male) Star Wars character, Lux Bonteri. Then there’s (female) Lux Lisbon, from The Virgin Suicides. Both characters pronounce their name like luck, but it’s also said with the long ‘u’ of Luke – the choice is yours.
MICAH – We sometimes behave as if unisex names are a twenty-first century innovation. But Micaiah appears for both male and female characters in the Old Testament, and Micah is the modern version. While it’s still used far more for boys in the US, spell it Mika and it’s the Finnish equivalent of Mikey … or a Japanese feminine name. With so many Mias and Milas and Makaylas, it’s easy to hear Micah as unisex.
NICO – As an independent name in the US, Nico is far more popular for boys. But plenty of Nic– names have topped the charts across gender lines. The best part? Choices range from classic Nicholas/Nicolas and Dominic to imported Niccolo to rare Nicodemus and Nicanor. Feminine choices are every bit as varied, including –nic ending names like Anika and Veronica.
PAX – We tend to hear Pax as masculine. Credit to Max/Jax, but also Jolie–Pitt brother Pax Thien. Except the original Pax was the Roman goddess of peace, always depicted in a gown, with olive branches and domestic symbols. It’s the rare masculine name clearly borrowed from feminine origins.
RAE/RAY – This might be one of the most effortlessly neutral names of our era. It encompasses everything from Ray Charles to Rey Skywalker. And while Raymond doesn’t sound quite like your style, I wonder if Raphael or Rafael might appeal?
RORY – Pop culture gave Rory a boost for girls. Hollywood legend Errol Flynn used it for a daughter way back in 1947, but it’s Gilmore Girls that makes us think of it as unisex today. Rory’s roots are Irish, and it means red king. The television series made it short for Lorelai. Another traditional option might be Lawrence or Laurence called Rory.
I’m not sure I have a definite favorite yet, so let’s try some unisex twin names combinations.
EDDIE AND …
When paired with your favorite girl’s name, I think Nico and Ray stand out. Ray and Eddie could belong to the same 1950s-era bowling league, or play on the same All-American Girls Professional Baseball League roster. (Or both.) But Nico strikes me as possibly more unisex than Ray – though I’m certain opinions will vary.
I think it’s also worth considering how you’re thinking about the nicknames. Do you plan to call your children, say, Eddie and Cal? Or are you thinking of unisex nicknames as insurance policies – a built-in fallback if their given names don’t suit?
Because your choice should hinge on the everyday use name – what you and your wife plan to call your children. Building in options is loving and wise, but make sure you love the names you’re going to use, above all else.
Let’s turn it over to the community: what are the best gender-neutral boy names that work as nicknames for a more traditional first?
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on July 1st, 2020 at 6:08 am
My son is Atticus nn Atty. We pretty much just call him Atty. I introduced him as such to someone new and they were like “Oh, a girl?” So I can vouch for it sounding feminine! I really like Atticus with Edith actually — not because I have one, but I think they sound good together. Edith, Marigold, and Atticus are also all Downton Abbey names – maybe a place to look for inspiration? I do agree that if you are calling them exclusively by nicknames, Eddie and Atty might be too similar. But if you are calling them by their firsts with nicknames as a back up, I love it.
on July 1st, 2020 at 6:22 am
Arthur Atticus “Ari” is so stunning alongside Edith Marigold that I’m not sure I care about Ari being close to Eddie in sound. Besides, Ari definitely feels like the most gender neutral name on offer here, so it has to get my vote ❤️
on July 1st, 2020 at 9:03 am
I could also see:
Any C name “Cece”
on July 1st, 2020 at 9:06 am
Arthur Atticus also gets my vote!. I love the suptle ‘th’ connection to Edith.
That being said:
A friend of mine called his son: ‘Jun Edg@r’ because they wanted a unisex first name.
Maybe ‘Jun’ would work as a nickmane for you. Possible first names could be: Junius, Julius, Julian, Justus or even Junot. If you a a middlename starting with N, it works even better.
Edith Marigold & Julius Newton
Edith Marigold & Justus Nathaniel / Nathan
Edith Marigold & Julian Noe/Neal
Edith Marigold & Junius Woodrow
JK Garrison Said
on July 1st, 2020 at 10:40 am
I love this question! Traditional names with gender neutral nicknames are my favorite category of names. Edith “Eddie” is on my list.
You’ve gotten many great recommendations already. To add some suggestions, I tend to think of nicknames first and formal names that they can be used with next.
Some more good nicknames that can produce names for either gender assignment are: Rue, Georgie, Lou, Sam/Sammy, Jo/Joey
Some name options could then be:
“Rue”: Rueben, Rupert,
“Lou”: Louis, Louie, Lucian, Ludwig, Llewyn
“Sam/Sammy”: Samuel, Samson, Samford
“Jo/Joey”: Joseph, Johannes, Jonathan
Abby Sandel Said
on July 1st, 2020 at 11:09 am
The comments are SO good – thanks + keep ’em coming! – Abby
on July 1st, 2020 at 1:21 pm
I love this approach! Lately I like ultra frilly girl names yet I worry about using them for potential future children for the same reason. I also love unisex nicknames., and I was actually thinking about making a forum post about traditional names with “genderswapped” or gender neutral nicknames. Anyways, I’d just like to also suggest Samuel! I know at least as many if not more Samanthas than I do Samuels, and they all go by Sam. It’s 100% unisex to me now.
You could also do Jack nn Jackie, Emmett nn Emmi, Roosevelt nn Rosie, Charles nn Charlie, Cassidy/Cassander nn Cass/Cassie, Sidney nn Sid, Cambell/Cameron nn Cam or Cammie, Alistair nn Ali, Jeremiah nn Remi, James nn Jamie, Patrick nn Pat, Abner nn Abby, or Josiah nn Josie/Joey
on July 1st, 2020 at 1:51 pm
I started a whole thread on this topic in 2016! Check it out here https://forum.nameberry.com/t/boys-names-with-feminine-nicknames/270497
Some of my favorite ideas for you are:
Izzy for Isaac, Isaiah, Israel or Isidore
Nat for Nathaniel
Remy/Remi for Remington
Jules for Julian
Wren for Lawrence
Em for Emmett
Cass/Casey for Cassius, Cassian, Cassimir, Caspian, etc
on July 1st, 2020 at 3:01 pm
Julian – Jules
Casper – Cass, Cassie
Leonard, Leopold – Lee
Samuel – Sam
Luca, Lucas – Lulu
Harlan – Harley
Marlon – Marley
Pamela Redmond Said
on July 1st, 2020 at 5:26 pm
I have to say, I really like @JKGarrison’s Lou suggestion! It has that same 50s bowling league feel with Eddie (ha, Abby!) and so many excellent full names from the buttoned-up Louis, very much a brother to Edith, to Luca or Lucian or Luther.
on July 1st, 2020 at 6:40 pm
I like Eddie and Jules.
Jules could be for Julian – Edith and Julian sound perfect, and Eddie and Jules is so much fun!
I also really like the Isadore idea! Eddie and Izzy are SO great.
on July 2nd, 2020 at 5:38 am
I love the idea of Julian called Jules (Julian in fact used to be unisex, I believe).
I also like Sasha as a nickname for Alexander. Sasha works effortlessly between girls and boys. Or Sasha all on its own. Edith and Sasha have a nice ring, as different as they seem at first!
Hal/Hallie could just about work as well. Hal/Hallie for Henry – Edith and Henry are great!
Andrew called Andy would of course work well. I’ve known a few women named Andy/ie.
Jamie is very easily unisex too.
I absolutely love Little Women’s Laurie on a man. I’d love to see that used in real life! Edith and Laurence would be great together too.
on July 2nd, 2020 at 2:06 pm
All of these suggestions are great. What about Oliver, nicknamed Liv or Olive?
on July 3rd, 2020 at 12:32 am
My favorite suggestion is Lawerence “Rory”
Some other suggestions;
Edith & Victor “Vic” or “Tori/ Vicky”
Edith & Oliver “Ollie” or “Olive”
Edith & Leon “Leo” or “Lea”
Edith & Lior “Lio” or “Lia”
Edith & Nathaniel “Nate” “Nathan”. “Nat” or “Natalie”
Edith & Desmond “Des” or “Desi”
Edith & Caleb “Cal” or “Cali”
Edith & Jameson “James” or “Jamie”
Edith & Shairon “Shai”
Edith & Cameron “Cam” or “Cami”
Edith & Quinton “Quin”
on July 4th, 2020 at 4:01 pm
I do love the name Arthur Atticus, but prepare for him to be bombarded with people asking if he was named after “To Kill a Mockingbird”. It’s a lovely book, don’t get me wrong. But both names were names of very prominent characters.
on July 4th, 2020 at 11:10 pm
The name Jess is truly among the gender neutral names and also has a cool, retro feel. It was used mainly for men throughout most of its history but also has a connection to female names through a Jess/Jessie nickname (Jessica, Jessamine, etc.). Jess and Eddie … Eddie and Jess …
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