Should You Give a Girl a Boy’s Name?
There’s a lively debate going on over on our bulletin boards about whether boys’ names really work for girls. An item of particular contention: If a “geezer name” like Seymour or Murray isn’t good enough for a boy, why should it be good enough for a girl?
Good point, kind of. We’ve definitely moved beyond girls settling for less than boys get in all ways including their names, whether the inferior choice is a fusty old name like Milton or a fluffy-headed one like Fifi.
And why should a girl be more like a boy? There are thousands upon thousands of wonderful names for girls — check out the Flower Names and the Stylish Girly-Girl Names and even the Old Lady Cool names just for a start — that it’s hard to find a reason to stray into the male territory.
Yet many parents today are searching for something really different, and using a boy’s name for a girl is one way to make a bold choice without totally sacrificing tradition. Plus, we would (and do) argue that names such as Murray and Seymour simply sound different when applied to a girl. You’re forced to hear the syllables, the sounds anew, to break free of their association to a pilly old cardigan smelling of cigar smoke and appreciate their intrinsic beauty.
Would you name your little girl Seymour? Check in at the bulletin boards and tell us what you think.
About the author
View all of 's articles
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
on October 28th, 2008 at 11:02 am
Of course Sydney is a prime example–when it had pretty much died as a male name, it morphed into a sophisticated sounding girl’s name and became a huge hit in the 90s.
on October 28th, 2008 at 1:08 pm
I know a 29 year old Sydney who hates her name. Says little kids can’t say it properly (She works with kids three & under) and she’s tired of being mistaken for a man. It doesn’t help any that she’s got a deeper voice (think Lauren Bacall) and sounds masculine on the phone too.
Funnily, it’s one of the few I don’t mind on a girl. I think of Sydney/Sidney as I do Frances/Francis and while I have a favorite of each (Frances/Sidney), I don’t mind the other half.
I’m really anti-boy name on a girl though. I dislike the underlying “masculine is better” thought that that implies, whether or not it’s a reality in thinking. And I really think “What was wrong with ‘12,497’ actual girls names that you resorted to taking yet another option from the boys?” When I hear of yet another girl with a boy name.
I’d name a boy Clarence/Clancy, or Seymour happily. and Sidney, that’s his G. Grandpa’s name (and one of the middle names of the Hollywood guy I’d happily die for, Alan Rickman, born Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman). *sigh* Sidney Edward Porfirio, easily. And I’d call him Iggy. (although I think Sid’s retro tough guy and wicked cool!)
If I want strong on a girl, I’ll go the traditional femininsed boy name route. Especially if it honors! 😀
So count me on the opposing side.
on October 28th, 2008 at 2:40 pm
Ugh. Never. I don’t understand why everyone thinks we need to steal all the nice boys names and put them on girls now. It’s such a dumb trend. The boy’s naming pool is getting smaller every time someone steals a boy name for their daughter.
I would actually do the opposite– I’d give my son a name that’s fallen over to the girls (ala Ashley, Morgan, Haven, Jade, etc)
on October 28th, 2008 at 9:02 pm
Actually, the 30-year-old Sydney I know was constantly being called Cindy.
on October 28th, 2008 at 9:59 pm
That’s exactly what the little kids say! She says most kids over 7 can say it properly but under? no way! 😀
on October 28th, 2008 at 11:39 pm
No, no, no. Once a boy’s name crosses over into the girls’ camp, it’s off the boys list forever. Don’t forget that Ashley, Kelly, Evelyn, Carol, and Shirley all started out as 100% male. Now we’ve lost Sidney, Taylor, Harper, and who knows what others. Looks like Finley is headed that way, too. Even if it remains solidly in the boys’ camp, why create that kind of lifelong confusion?
on October 28th, 2008 at 11:43 pm
Well, one problem is that parents are using common boys’ names for girls quite often. So that argument doesn’t quite work for all the parents who choose names like Jordan, Cameron, Taylor and Jaden for their daughters.
And well, simply giving an “old man” name to a baby boy also pushes one to reconsider it. If a name is giving to enough children, it loses the the elderly connotation.
I can see how it seems sort of different, but not that different, to use a boy’s name on a girl, just as it does to use a common surname as a first name. It’s familiar, but used in a different way, like when designers try to get a different look by having an item worn a different way. The same even applies when parents alter a spelling, since it’s not like they’re trying to come up with ways to put y’s in names like Bertha or Herschel.
on October 29th, 2008 at 12:53 am
No, no, no. I have a Spencer, and I cringe whenever someone suggests it as a viable choice for girls. Seems like the boy’s name pool is ever-shrinking, and Reese, Harper, and Finley are among the latest casualties. The only ones I can get on board with are designated masculine/feminine spellings, ie Francis/Frances, or Cameron/Camryn.
on October 29th, 2008 at 10:59 am
This is a great subject! My name is Tommie and I HATE it and have always hated it! It is really hard to understand how difficult it is for a female to have to live their entire life with a male name unless you have lived it. I can not tell you how tired I get at all the comments for example…”Where your parents expecting a boy?!”…”What’s your REAL name?” …”What’s it short for?”…”Is that the name you prefer to go by?”..I have heard it all and believe me about the 100th time you hear the same rude comment by someone thinking they are the first to come up with something funny to say, you want to tell them off. I think there are a lot of good names that have crossed over from boys to girls side that would be ok to use for girl after it has already crossed over. The only thing is that you can’t be sure which names will eventually be taken over by the girls so I would definitly NOT choose one that is almost totally on the boys side or even mostly on the boys side. It’s a really mean, inconsiderate, selfish thing to do in my opinion to pick a name because you think it would be really cute for a girl. I would say if you like it so much change your own name to it and please don’t make a sweet childs life any harder than it has to be! The comments NEVER end trust me ….Just the other day my daughter got teased because her mom has a boys name!!! The only thing worse would be naming a boy an all girls name. My worst fear with naming a son is that I pick a name that I love and then a few years later the girls take it over!!!
on October 29th, 2008 at 11:22 am
I volunteer in the nursery at church – because we will be using it for triplets in the near future! Some of the continuing cross-over names that are still on the male/female list are Ryan, Sean, Dylan and Devin. I see those going both ways and working for boys or girls.
But Jordan, Taylor, Riley and Reece (unless spelled Rhys) is lost to the girls. There are Cameron boys as young as 7 around – but that seems to be the cut-off in my part of the country.
And here I am getting ready to name a daughter Sinclair. It sounds right for us. And I am sure to all those mothers of Mallory, Whitney, Tracy, Stacy, Sidney, Hillary, Ashley, Riley, Aubrey, Shirley and Leslie – that sounded right too. But don’t forget that “ee” sound cutifies the name making it perfect for girls. This I can wrap my head around. But I still remember going thru school with Aaron boy and Erin girl. They always hated it. Wonder how the Dylan boy and Dylan girls are going to feel?
on October 29th, 2008 at 5:02 pm
Yeah, but Aaron (boy) & Erin (girl) are completely different names, with different etymylogical roots! And in some parts of the country, they still are pronounced differently. Ah-ron, Eh-rin. I grew up in NJ! And even now, in Massachusetts, I say them differently from each other. But in NH, they’re the same.
Hillary’s another one I view like Frances/Francis & Sidney/Sydney, Hillary for the girls, Hilary for the boys. At least in MY head, that’s the way they are. But then, I’d happily name a boy Shannon, Kelly or Ashley even today.
on November 13th, 2008 at 3:55 pm
I cringe when I hear a girl with a boy name. Can’t parents just leave girls names to girls and boys names to boys? I have a boy named Spencer and it makes me sick that it is now considered a unisex name, like Terry or Pat. It is a nice, masculine name. Leave boys names alone!
on November 14th, 2008 at 2:33 am
I feel tommie’s pain as my mother chose an unusual name for me. Nobody in my entire town/ school district had/has ever heard of a female christopher. Years of hearing christopher columbus on the playground was mortifying. The worst part is everyone assumes there is a fascinating story. My mom feels slightly bad nowadays when I tell her how I fought over the phone with at&t and had to have several bill accounts flagged as female thereafter. She actually admitted she should have at least given a more feminine middle name instead of Lee, especially after she named my sister Alicia Danielle.
on November 14th, 2008 at 11:29 am
I have a friend who’s name is Kyle. She has gotten so many work related meetings with people because they think she is a man. It’s sad but true, that there is a glass ceiling and perhaps having a “male” name is just the push you need to break through. I see nothing wrong with having a male name, I think anything goes these days!
on March 15th, 2009 at 2:02 am
My name is Jamie and I’m a girl (a very girly girl actually), and I grew up with people saying how many Jamie’s they knew that were boys – especially since my spelling is the male way. But I like it – there were always so many Jessica’s, Sarah’s etc in my classes in school – nowadays everyone calles me James and I get compliments from people saying it’s a cool name – I think people are getting more and more open minded and used to situations like this. It’s like the names Shannon, Tracey, Casey, etc – Names I would automatically class as female but are defined as male… I’m all for male names for girls!!
on July 14th, 2009 at 2:54 pm
It is definitely more common and acceptable to give a girl a boy name then the other way around.
http://ListOfGirlNames.com – a blog about Girl Names
on December 14th, 2011 at 12:33 pm
I love crossing the gender line with names! I don’t think society should be able to tell you whether a name is for a boy or a girl, if it sounds right it sounds right. It makes me cringe reading about how it makes people cringe when Spencer is on a girl, I think it’s a beautiful name for either gender. In fact I have an OC named Spencer who’s a girl. I don’t mind girl names on guys either, though. Like Hope sounds better on a guy than a girl in my opinion.
on April 2nd, 2019 at 3:23 am
I’m with tommiethemommie and Christopher. I too was given the diminutive of a boy’s name and changed it by deed poll to the full feminine version when I was 27 and then changed careers. I had been using my new name unofficially in some places but could no longer bare to be called by my given name at work and when dealing with the authorities. Giving a child a diminutive name is lazy. They can’t lengthen it if they don’t like it as they can shorten a full name. Giving a girl a boy’s name is cruel as it leads to confusion and teasing at school. Boys don’t like it when there is a girl in the same class with the same name so when a boy’s name crosses the gender divide. Names such as Lesley and Beverley are feminine sounding anyway
Because of my name I had very little confidence and few friends other than those who made friends with me because they felt sorry for me. Especially as back then giving a girl a boy’s name was very unusual in the UK. I also had very little confidence as my father was a bully and stubborn. My mother gave in to him most of the time as the more we objected to anything the more he pushed it on us.
My parents were very controlling and would not let me ask teachers to use my middle name at school as many children do when they hate their first name. They even tried to stand in my way when I changed my name by deed poll and bullied me for years after I did. If I had known how to go about changing my name years before I did I would have done that when I first left home.
leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.