Cool Names for Girls and Boys


by Pamela Redmond Satran

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.

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.