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Feminist Names for Boys

By Clare Green

You’re a feminist. Great! You want to give your child a name with feminist values. Fantastic!

It’s a boy…hmmm.

It’s relatively easy to come up with feminist girl names inspired by strong females like women’s rights activists, scientists or writers, to name but a few. But for boy names, you may need to think outside the box.

Thanks to our reader dechen for opening this topic in the Nameberry forum – it’s gathered lots of great ideas, many of which are included here. (For even more, there’s also this thread from a few years back.) Inspired by them, let’s lift the lid and look at 5 ways to find a fabulous feminist name for a boy.

1. Use a male feminist icon name

One obvious place to look is the names of feminist men. Some early advocates of women’s rights with highly usable first names include:

Alphonse Rebière – French writer who advocated for women in science

Amos Bronson Alcott – educational reformer and father of author Louisa May

Frederick Douglass – abolitionist who attended the first women’s rights convention in America

Parker Pillsbury – minister who helped to form the American Equal Rights Association

Thaddeus Stevens – radical politician who put forward a bill of women’s rights (at least one berrybaby has this namesake)

2. Say it with a surname

If you want to name a boy after a strong woman – whether from your family tree or a high-profile woman you admire – one option is to use her surname.

Most of us can think of families who have done this. A recent celebrity example is TV host Seth Meyers. His older son, Ashe Olsen, has his mother’s and grandmother’s maiden names. Younger brother Axel Strahl has an almost-anagram of his mother’s name, Alexi, plus a significant surname from her family.

It can be a balancing act between personal meaning and aesthetic appeal, but here’s a small sample of strong women’s surnames that are also stylish for a boy.

Political activists: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Writers: Jane Austen, George Eliot, Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Virginia Woolf

Artists and performers: Alicia Alonso, Joan Jett, Frida Kahlo

Scientists: Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Rosalind Franklin

In fiction: the Bennet sisters, Nancy Drew, Hermione Granger

3. Make it masculine

Another way to adapt a heroine’s name: use a masculine form of it. This could either be the strictly-speaking version you’ll find in name dictionaries, or an adaptation of the sound. Don‘t worry, I won’t tell the name police.

A few examples from assorted admirable women:

Billy for Billie Jean King

Elio for Eleanor Roosevelt

Emile for Emily Dickinson

Grayson for Grace Hopper

Harry for Harriet Tubman

Marius for Marie Curie

Ninian for Nina Simone

Simon for Simone de Beauvoir

If you use this technique, you’re in star-studded company: Richard Gere and Alejandra Silva just named their son Alexander, apparently after mom.

4. Claim it for the boys

Want to challenge gender norms? You could use a unisex name. For true gender equality, the names with the most even boy/girl split at the moment include Charlie, Finley and Skyler. If statistics are important to you, bear in mind that the balance could tip either way in future years/decades.

Or how about using a name that’s more familiar on girls?

Realistically, not many parents are going to call their sons Isabella or Abigail (though if you do, more power to you). But some traditionally female names lend themselves more to boys. Hero is as much a word name as an ancient Greek female name. Jayne leans male for Firefly fans.

Some surname-derived names that were popular for girls a few decades ago now feel like they could be fresh on a boy, such as Ashley, Kelly, and maybe even Tracey. Going back further…could you be the one to bring Esme, Florence and Hilary back to the boys?

There’s also a bracket of medieval female names that have fallen out of use – though some survive in surnames – and now feel unisex if not masculine. Emmett is firmly a boy name today; others include Ames, Marriott, Sealey and Wilmot. (Check out this post at British Baby Names for more.)

5. Go symbolic

What about a name that reflects values, rather than a specific person? Let’s finish by looking at some more symbolic feminist names.

Purple was one of the suffragettes’ colors, and is now the color of International Women’s Day. There aren’t many purple names that feel quite comfortable on boys – though by all means reclaim them – but Indigo, Mulberry and Porfirio are some.

A hammer is sometimes used as a symbol for feminism (specifically smashing the patriarchy), so how about hammer-wielding Thor?

Speaking of mythology, male names derived from goddesses, like Artem, Dimitri and Isidore, are a way to refer to feminine power.

More broadly, you could use a symbol of rising or springing back, like Phoenix, Lark or Arrow.

Modern virtue names are hot for boys, and many have meanings relevant to feminism, like Justice, Brave and Truth (which could also be a nod to women’s rights hero Sojourner Truth). There are also names with more subtle meanings – like Simeon or Samuel, which are associated with words meaning “listen”. Which is the first step towards smashing the patriarchy.

What are your favorite feminist names – and what would you add to the list?

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5 Responses to “Feminist Names for Boys”

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eoxima Says:

February 18th, 2019 at 5:54 pm

Love this! So many good names. I struggled to find feminist-themed boy names but Thaddeus, Eliot, Wilder, Franklin, Elio (love!) and Grayson are good shouts. Elio is unfamiliar to me but wow, I loooove it!

Ms.Teal Says:

February 19th, 2019 at 12:38 am

Even though I’m not interested in this theme, the list was excellent. Some symbolic, some on the nose, some exotic, some familiar, all nice selections.
Alphonse, Frederick, Anthony, Eliot, Jett, Emile, Ninian, Marius, Ashley, Indigo and Isidore are my favorites.

Frederick Jett Surname
Alphonse Eliot Surname
Emile Marius Surname
Isidore Indigo Surname
Anthony Ninian Surname

Kew Says:

February 19th, 2019 at 5:26 am

I love Esmé on a boy! I’m also happy to see Emmet’s history as a girls’ name mentioned, since it’s so often overlooked. My personal favourite from this list is Dimitri, and I would love to hear of a boy being named Eliot after G.E., since she is one of my heros.

beynotce Says:

February 19th, 2019 at 8:41 am

I’m a fan of #4! I like Isobel (that spelling) on a boy. I also prefer Kylie/Kiley on a boy. Other “girl” names I find usable on boys: Jonquil, Joy, Bryony, and Alys.

oliviamcdonald Says:

May 30th, 2019 at 6:36 am

I love this list so much. Very well put together! A few of my long-standing loves are on here and also plenty of new names I had never considered. Kahlo is amazing. I also love Ames.

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