Gender-Bending Baby Names

By Clare Bristow

This week’s names in the news cross gender boundaries. Some of them are more popular for boys, others for girls, and some are so rare they could go either way. See what you think – are these names more boy or girl to you?

Arlo

Actor Theo Rossi and his wife chose a name that’s speeding up the charts for their new son, Arlo Benjamin. Arlo entered the US Top 1000 in 2011, and reached #349 in 2016. It’s also used for a small but growing number of girls, 56 in 2016. With Harlow sitting at #420 for girls, and Marlowe rising, it’s not surprising that some parents are turning to Arlo for a similar sound for their daughters – although they won’t be outnumbering the boys any time soon.

Dalton

Dalton William is the name of singer Ashley Monroe and baseball player John Danks’ new son. This cowboyish surname/place name peaked for boys in the late 1990s, and still ranks at #331. On the girls’ side, it’s uncommon but not unheard of: 7 girls were called Dalton in 2016. With -ton names like Peyton and Sutton in the top 1000 for girls, Dalton doesn’t seem so out of place. It could even give you the vintage nickname Dolly.

Parker

TV host Mark Steines and his wife recently welcomed a daughter, Parker Rose. Along with occupational names like Sawyer and Carter, Parker is popular for both sexes. It’s #87 for boys and #217 for girls in the US, and still rising for both. Actress Parker Posey has helped to make it feel comfortable as a girls’ name.

Sonny

Sonny Sanford is TV celeb Whitney Port’s son, born in July. Sonny is one of those quietly timeless boys’ names that’s been in the Top 1000 since the 1920s. It’s given to a handful of girls each year – there were 18 girl Sonnys in 2016. Blogger Sonni Abatta (who has a variant spelling) shares her thoughts here on growing up with an unusual name. Meanwhile, cheerful soundalike Sunny is more popular for girls than boys, but outside the Top 1000 for both.

Sonny could be a nickname for any name containing “son”, for both sexes. Here come two of them!

Addison

Addison is the 29th most popular girls’ name in the US, but for boys it’s below the Top 1000, so it’s refreshing to hear of a male Addison. (30 years ago, who would ever have thought we’d be saying that?) There’s a boy called Addison among these babies named after the Chicago Cubs baseball team – the Cubs’ stadium is off West Addison street.

Jaymison

Boy or girl? There’s a boy Jaymison in the latest birth announcements on the French website Neuf Mois, but the spelling might give you pause. Sometimes parents use a Y spelling to make a name feminine – as in Jaymie, which has always leaned more girl than boy. Jaymison has only ever charted for boys, but the most popular spelling, Jameson (which ranks #128 for boys), was used for 59 girls last year.

Louie

Singers Andy Grammer and Aijia Lise welcomed a daughter in July. Her full name is Louisiana K, but her parents are calling her Louie. This is a great example of getting a boyish nickname from a feminine name (think Frankie for Francesca, or Max for Maxima like the Zuckerbergs). And Louisiana is rare – it didn’t chart at all in 2016 – but fits right in with the Lu– names for girls that parents love today.

On the boys’ side, here’s the story of how an American-French family named their son Louis (a Top 10 name in France) – after considering ALL the options.

Tennessee

Another state name in the news! Parents who are big fans of the Tennessee Volunteers football team have just welcomed triplets: Tennessee Grace and her brothers, Knox and Neyland (the name of the team’s stadium). You might think of playwright Tennessee Williams (his pen name), or Reese Witherspoon’s son, and assume Tennessee is more of a male name. But until 1995 it only charted for girls. Last year, 24 boys and 24 girls were given the name.

Daye

Are you surprised this name isn’t more popular? From Ava and Mason to Grey and Faye, so many of the top names have “ay” sounds that Day(e) seems like a natural addition to the list. In 2016, only 7 girls and 5 boys in the US were named Day, and the -e spelling is almost unheard of. British soap actress Jennifer Metcalfe has used it for her son, Daye Colmic. (His middle name is a smoosh of his grandfathers’ names, Colin and Mick.)

Beryl

If you love a good hipster name (without actually admitting you’re a hipster, of course), this book sounds like fun. While not all the names mentioned are likely to catch on (looking at you, Gyoza and Pixar), many of them are already being used. Like Jagger, Kale, Tesla, Wes…and Beryl? Bold parents might revive this vintage gemstone name for a girl, but as the article points out, it was also given to a decent number of boys in the 1910s, 20s and 30s. What do you think – would you dare use Beryl for a boy?

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8 Responses to “Gender-Bending Baby Names”

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lesliemarion Says:

August 9th, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Jaymison?

I’d sooner name my child Oatmeal.

southern.maple Says:

August 10th, 2017 at 10:04 am

Ah, yes. Yet another post where masculine names are suggested as fresh choices for a girl while the lone suggestion meant for boys – Beryl, in this case – is given an “if you dare” line. I’m glad to see Nameberry continues to inspire social change by encouraging casual sexism in naming.

MonikerWanderer Says:

August 10th, 2017 at 10:29 am

Just leave the boy names for the boys and the girl names for the girls. That’s all I ask. Boys continue to lose names to girls and are rarely ever reclaimed.

name_sage Says:

August 10th, 2017 at 10:44 am

I think it’s odd to think of a name as being “only boys” or “only girls”. I think that might be an unpopular view on Nameberry, but I think history shows us that gendered names can swing widely from one side to the other. If it works for your child, why not? I currently work in a Middle School and we have several boy/girl pairs who have the same name. Doesn’t seem to bother them in the least. Kids seem much more open-minded to names these days than people give them credit for.

Ok, now all that being said, I have to admit where I’m a hypocrite. I have a really hard time with girls names that end in Son or begin with Mc (as in Son of). Just a personal pet peeve. Lol.

nml28 Says:

August 10th, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Of course these are 90% boys’ names for girls or boys’ names for boys, except for Beryl which is considered daring? Come on y’all

jessiemay Says:

August 10th, 2017 at 6:59 pm

And Nikki Reed just named her new daughter Bodhi Soleil! To be honest, I LOVE a good unisex name myself, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to say that any name is or isn’t for someone on the basis of their sex. There’s no “loss” or “shame” to one side, it’s just the way names develop over time! Long live unisex names <3

Liz Kent Says:

August 11th, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Please don’t be horrid and give your child a name that belongs to the opposite gender! My friend Alex gets annoyed enough with people that just see her name written assuming she’s a boy, and Alex is a unisex name! Unisex is fine, but using the opposite gender is just cruel to your child.

10 idées de prénoms mixtes | Métro Says:

August 28th, 2017 at 10:43 am

[…] prénoms mixtes, ou unisexes, ont la cote dans le monde anglophone, et ce, depuis déjà quelques années. Étant de genre neutre, ces prénoms vont aussi bien à un bébé fille qu’à un bébé […]

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