Cool Names for Girls and Boys
Names that break with convention — style and family and culture and spelling and, yes, gender — have become more and more desirable for many parents looking to reinvent baby naming.
While we’re all familiar with such trendy unisex names as Rowan, Rory, and River, there’s a new generation of choices that are more unusual and push the gender boundaries even further. Here, a dozen uncommon choices that work for a girl or a boy.
Arden is both a place name – it was the magical forest in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and it means “valley of the eagle” – and a surname. But its strongest appeal may be its similarity to the word “ardent.” Arden was given to 243 girls and 94 boys in 2014. That’s a slight shift toward Team Blue, though on the girls’ side, Arden is poised to break into the Top 1000.
All names El-related are fashionable these days for girls – from Ella to Eleanor, Ellery to Elliot – and Ellis is one from the boys’ side that is starting to cross over. Ellis was in the Top 200 for boys until about a century ago. After a long decline, it’s on a sharp upswing again, at Number 443 for boys, up from 529 a year ago. It’s not in the Top 1000 yet for girls but it won’t be long.
We are used to thinking of heroes as male, but the mythological Hero was female. Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite who met a tragic end with her lover Leander. Despite its origins as a girls’ name, Hero was given to 20 girls in the US in 2016 versus 16 boys.
There were just over 100 babies named Indigo in 2014, about a third of them boys. But it’s a name that can work equally well for both genders. And Indigo is an intrinsically cool color: the color of jeans, of royalty, and of New Age intelligence. Plus, independence-minded nickname, Indie.
The month name July relates, as do most names Jul-beginning, to the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. July has been used much less frequently than April, May, June, or August, but is starting to be rediscovered along with other names from the calendar. It was used for only 12 girls in 2014, many fewer than were Julia, Juliet, and sisters, and a mere eight boys, much less popular than Julian or even Julius.
Lynx is a slinky animal name, with a sexy x ending but much more unusual than Fox: There were only six boys named Lynx in 2014, compared with 15 times that many Foxes. And there were too few girls named Lynx to even be recorded – but that may be the best possible reason to choose the name, for a daughter or son.
Oak seems like a stereotypically masculine tree name, and indeed there were 27 baby boys named Oak in 2014 versus fewer than five girls. But interestingly, the name Oakley is just about equally popular for girls and boys – 362 versus 394 – putting it back on the Top 1000 for both genders. But we actually prefer the sleek simple Oak.
Who’s cooler than Quincy Jones? Although there are nearly three times as many boys named Quincy as girls, this Presidential name was given to more than 150 girls in 2014. Mia Farrow, master namer, has a daughter called Quincy. Still on the Top 1000 for boys, Quincy means “estate of the fifth son.”
Romy has been a cool celebrity baby name in recent years, used by such hip parents as Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars, along with Matt Lauer. Popular in The Netherlands and France, Romy may be seen as a short form of Rosemary…or Romeo. It was used for 62 girls in 2014 and only six boys.
Sasha is a name that hip parents often tell us they’re considering for their sons, though it’s much more heavily weighted on the girls’ side than you might guess: There were over 535 girls named Sasha in the US in 2014 versus just 20 boys. Sacha, the spelling used by actor Baron Cohen, is divided more evenly between the genders but very quietly used: only seven girls and nine boys. Originating as a Russian diminutive of the all-male Alexander, Sasha’s sybillant sounds say girl to many English speakers.
This Irish surname has an attractive sound and is both familiar and unusual. It was given to nearly ten times as many boys as girls in the US in 2014 – 48 vs. only five – but works well for both genders. Another, similar name that reverses the gender divide: Tierney, used for 56 girls but too few boys to make the records.
Wallace may be a thoroughly masculine name – it’s Scottish and means stranger – that hit the Top 100 for boys a century ago. But it has some female credibility thanks to the notorious and superchic Wallis Simpson, for whom the King of England abdicated his throne. Fewer than five girls were named Wallace in 2014 with eight using the Wallis spelling.
Adorable photo from Very French Gangsters, cool eyewear for kids.
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on June 11th, 2015 at 12:45 am
What a great list…of boy’s names.
on June 11th, 2015 at 2:28 am
I’m so sick and tired of BOY NAMES (because that’s what the list entails) being advertised as ‘cool’ choices for girls.
Nameberry, there are literally trillions of girls names in this world. So why you feel the need to push, press and seemingly in some cases force this trend down our throats constantly is beyond me! It’s an incredibly unoriginal trend at that and it is sexist. Not only that but, no one (including the moderators) seems to be taking into account the fact that girls might not want to be named Wallace or Tiernan. I know that plenty of girls in our world today hate their names, but I think you’re far more likely to find a girl who hates her name because it’s masculine, and far less likely (if it’s possible at all) to find a girl who hates her name because it’s feminine.
Also, where as the ‘COOL’ names for boys? The names you’ve listed are all clearly masculine. So, where’s the post about names like Whitney, Loren, Jody, Carol, Renee, Kimberly, Jocelyn, Mallory, Allison for boys? Since you’re SO SUPPORTIVE of masculine names on girls, then surely you should advertise the other side of the spectrum by showing off masculine classics or, better yet, converting some girl names to unisex so that the baby boy name pool can start to widen and fill again.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – until Nameberry starts advertising feminine names as positive choices for boys, I will refuse to support (and will indeed rightfully shame), this sad, twisted attempt at pressing masculinity on girls.
on June 11th, 2015 at 3:33 am
I have to say, I agree with the above commenters. With the exceptions of Hero and Romy (and maybe Indigo– which, since it’s a color, is truly unisex), this is a list of names for boys. While it’s great to break down gender barriers, this trend only seems to go in one direction. The answer to sexism is not presenting girls as more masculine– it’s presenting femininity as EQUAL to masculinity. So, yes, why do these lists never seem to feature traditionally feminine names being suggested for boys? Because femininity is still seen as less-than compared to masculinity… And think about this: what are parents’ reasons for choosing a traditionally male name for their daughter? Typically, it’s because they wanted a “strong” name, and found traditional girls names “too frilly.” This is a clear sign of valuing masculinity over femininity. Girls are strong. Girls are frilly. Girls are both, or neither. Girls can be anything. Names do not determine personality and certainly do not determine worth… which is something a lot of people on this site could do with a reminder of, imo.
What it comes down to is– I’d support this trend of giving girls traditionally “masculine” names, if boys were also being given traditionally “feminine” names. Until this trend goes both ways, it’s just another symptom of sexism, not a solution.
on June 11th, 2015 at 8:50 am
I think most of these names work better for boys than girls but I don’t understand the accusation of sexism aimed at Nameberry. The writer is correct that there is a small but growing trend of parents naming daughters with boy names, and they’ve repeated many times that many unisex names aren’t truly unisex because they tend to be used more for one gender than the other. And most girl names aren’t used for boys. Nameberry can’t change that, nor is it their job to do so, nor can they do so. Nameberry, by and large, does not create or enforce trends. For all the hundreds or thousands who are members of this site, there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea it’s here. Nameberry is an observer and reporter, not really a creator. They are astute, and they write insightful pieces, some of which get into the popular media, and they may have influence on those who care enough about avante garde naming trends to look up websites and join forums. But they don’t create trends. They just host a place where the haute couture namers hang out to talk about the current and future name coolness trends, like Fashion Week. Nobody else cares about fashion week, and nobody really wears those clothes. Outside of a relatively small group of people, nobody else is naming their children Wilbur or Hortense or Persephone or Oak. Most babies are named Noah and Jacob and Sophia and Emma, just like most people wear blue jeans. So give Nameberry a break. This is a fun place to be, not really a hill to die on.
on June 11th, 2015 at 9:23 am
Hero is a GIRLS name–when will people learn that?!–both its original Greek mythology and the universe of Shakespeare. Hero is a lovely, beautiful bold choice. Anyone who thinks Hero is only for boys has internalized sexism that they need to check.
…which brings me to SASHA! The fact that people say Sasha is too “girly” for a boy makes me want to scream! They have such ignorance of Russian culture. 9 times out of 10, Russian male nicknames end with a. Mischa (Mike), Antoshka (Tony), Sasha (Alex), Vanya (Johnny), etc. Sasha is equal to Alex which can obviously be Alexander OR Alexandra. A ending doesn’t always mean “girl name”. The same people get huffy and puffy about a girl named Ezra and such.
Romy I love equally for both sexes. By itself or the elongated forms Romilly (unisex), Rosemary, Romeo, etc. It’s such a cute-cool name.
Arden, I like how it sounds like ardent too. And that child genius is a boy named Arden Hayes. I went to high school with an Arden. It makes me think of flowers.
Ellis I feel I prefer for a girl. then again Jeb Bush is John Ellis Bush and that turns me off the name completely. He’s gross. And up there with girls named Elliot it turns me off too. I’ll stick to Ella.
Quincy, I adore! Both sexes. How cute is it?!
I like the look of July but not the sound as a name. But Julie is boring. It’s a catch-22!
the rest are ugly.
on June 11th, 2015 at 11:14 am
Well, the only name on the list I like is Indigo. The rest are not my style.
on June 11th, 2015 at 11:52 am
I LOVE Wallace. It’s a family name on my hubby’s side. We’d definitely be using it if my cousin’s 1 year old wasn’t Walter. I don’t want two Wallies in the family. That being said, I dislike it strongly for a girl! It’s all boy to me!
on June 11th, 2015 at 11:53 am
I like Arden and Romy. There’s an Ardis on our family tree, and a Rosemary. I know a cat named Wallis!
on June 11th, 2015 at 12:26 pm
I’ll never understand why people get so worked up over this. Why does everything have to be so ideological? It’s just preference. I’m not a fan of frilly, romantic names like Isabella, so why would I give my daughter a name like that? The sound doesn’t appeal to me. It has nothing to do with the way I view feminine or masculine roles. I mean, seriously? That’s ridiculous.
My brother’s name is Quincy and I think his name sounds great on a boy or a girl. Naming a girl Quincy doesn’t affect my brother at all. He actually suggested it as a name for my daughter. My brother Charlie did the same thing. People take these things way to personally.
If your kid grows up and doesn’t feel that their name fits them, then they can change it or go by something else (nickname or middle name). It’s impossible to predict their preference before they’re born. I don’t agree that most females prefer super frilly names. Unisex names are so popular for a reason.
The point: everyone needs to chill out.
on June 11th, 2015 at 1:50 pm
Named my baby girl Arden and it fits her so well. Sassy, feminine, and strong. We love it.
on June 11th, 2015 at 3:24 pm
I just wanted to say that I’m glad to see that the name we are going to name our third son is on your list…Oakley!! However, we originally planned on naming a girl Oakley, but after finding out we are having another boy and not really coming up with a name we both liked for a boy, my husband finally suggested we just use Oakley since it is a unisex name! I couldn’t be more happy with our decision.
on June 11th, 2015 at 5:12 pm
@Kdt_53002, love your story! And @denmama9, thanks for your support.
We always brace ourselves when we write anything about names that are used for both genders because people have very strong feelings about this issue. But it’s true that we don’t create these trends or legislate them, but rather reflect and interpret what’s going on in society.
Some people like these names that can be used for both genders and appreciate the way they transcend conventional gender identity and others don’t. And some of the names we included here are used much more heavily for one gender than another….and we offer the numbers so parents can make their own decision.
We have written about names such as Robin that are moving back in the boys’ direction. But this piece is not really meant to argue whether names “should” be unisex or defend our feminist beliefs, but rather to offer parents who like names used for both genders a handful of fresh options.
on June 11th, 2015 at 7:07 pm
Well said, @denmama9 and Pam. Though everyone is entitled to an opinion on the issue of “gender bending” in naming, to confuse discussing with endorsing is to place undue blame on Nameberry.
I think this is a nice list of interesting names for both genders, and we all have preferences about which names might suit one gender over another. Arden, to me, is a reminder of Elizabeth Arden, making me think of perfume and flowers. It feels girly to me, but it fits a boy, too.
My favorite here is Ellis, for either a girl or boy. I’m also enchanted with Hollis. Although both were boy names traditionally speaking, I could see either one just as well on a girl. Ellis feels particularly intriguing to me knowing it was Emily Bronte’s pseudonym: Ellis Bell. (And, yes, I know she used a masculine-sounding name to avoid publishing under a female name, during a sad historical period for women, particularly in the arts.)
This column reminds me of another one of my favorites, Wren, a unisex name. I love the lilting femininity of it as well as the animal connection and the link to architect Sir Christopher Wren. It packs a punch in so many ways, I think.
on June 11th, 2015 at 10:17 pm
When I was in first grade, I had a fifth-grade mentor named Wallace! She made me feel so cool.
My daughter goes by Romy, but she’s not a Rosemary.
I also think we need to be confident in associating strength, level-headedness, spunk, grit, etc., with women’s names. We don’t need to borrow anything from men! Some of the people I know who show these qualities are named things like Mary, Susan, and Sarah!
on June 11th, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Arden’s been on my favourites list for years now. I really hope it remains at least a little obscure until I’m ready to have kids.
on June 12th, 2015 at 12:31 am
Oh my gosh, not everything is a righteous crusade. I don’t look at Nameberry to read political comments. I look at it for fun, new, and/or interesting ideas for names. Trolls be gone!
on June 12th, 2015 at 1:20 am
To clarify my previous comment– I’m not blaming Nameberry or calling them out in particular. I was under the impression that this website is a forum for discussion of baby naming trends. My comment was meant to contribute to discussion, which I figured would also be construed as support for the site. @JH It’s not trolling to express an honest opinion.
on June 14th, 2015 at 12:47 pm
I am typically averse to boys names for girls but don’t mind Arden and one of my own discovery, Winfield – I could see that on a girl.
on June 15th, 2015 at 4:47 pm
It’s funny how names give people different impressions. I definitely think of Arden as a girl’s name and Ellis as a boy’s name. Although I don’t care for Indigo for either sex, I like the name Inigo for a boy.
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