Unisex Baby Names: Going to the boys

unisex baby names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

Unisex baby names, when they begin to veer toward use for one gender more than the other, typically move to the girls’ side.

But not always.  Thanks to the wonderful chart by Steve Ruble that we are delighted to feature on our new unisex baby names home page, we can see how the gender ratio of unisex names morphs over time.  And an increasing number of unisex baby names names are turning decidedly more blue.

The unisex baby names on Steve Ruble’s chart and beyond that are becoming more masculine include:


The multi-ethnic Amari was two-thirds female in 2000, soon after in entered the U.S. Top 1000, and now has reversed course and is 63% male.


Angel was used two-thirds of the time for girls in 1972 but by 2012, 83% of the children named Angel were boys, many of them of Hispanic descent.

Artie, Donnie, Frankie

Nickname-names Artie, Donnie, and Frankie along with many others were a fad for girls back in 1880, when the Social Security Administration began keeping records: They were 85% female at that time.  By 1950 all three names were given to half girls and half boys, and today have become virtually all-male.


Ashton tarted out as a quietly but consistently-used boys’ name.  Then in the late 1980s it had a flurry of use for girls;  in 1986, 1,200 children were given the name, 79% of them female.  But now Ashton is 94% male.

Carey and Kerry

Carey and Kerry have both been used quietly since the 1880s, for decades almost always for males.  But in the 1970s and early 80s that switched and the names both became two-thirds female.  And now it’s switched back so that 72% of the children named Carey and 66% of those named Kerry are boys.


When Cruz was first used as a name, the few instances were virtually all female.  That  gradually tipped and now children named Cruz are virtually all male.


Courtney may be predominantly a girls’ name, but spelled Cortney, it’s tipped this year toward the boys’ side, at 53% male.


First used as a girls’ name, then a boys’ choice, and then by the early 90s it was 50-50.   Now Darian is over 90% male, with the Darien spelling even more so.

Darnell, Lavon, Vernell

Three names that started out male, in the 1940s became half female, and now are back to being all male.


Dee started as a boys’ name, then in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s became mostly female. Now few children are named Dee, but most of them are boys.


Deon started as an all-female name, then made a dramatic switch in 1959-60 thanks to the singer.  Now all the children named Deon are boys.

Deshawn and Lashawn

In 1971, half the babies named Deshawn were girls and half boys.  The next year the proportion rose to 2/3 male, and now the name is virtually all-male.  Lashawn started as 100% a girls’ name and now is 86% boys.


Devon was once an all-male name.  Then from the late 40s through the early 80s the percentage of girls named Devon rose, hitting 2/3 in the late 1970s.  But now Devon is back to being nearly 90% male.  Spellings Deven and Devin are even more boyish, while Devan and Devyn tip the proportion slightly girlward.


Once over 80% female, Dominique is now more than 50% male.


In the mid 1970s there were more girls than boys named Dusty, but now Dustys are almost all boys.


Elisha was a boys’ name until the 1960s and the Lisa era when it became predominantly a girls’ choice, at over 80% female before starting to swing back in the mid-90s.  Now Elisha is nearly 70% male.


Germaine was 100% a girls’ name in the US until 1970, when feminist moms started naming their sons Germaine after Germaine Greer. Now Germaine is over 75% male.


Jaime began as an all-boy name, the Spanish form of James or a spelling variation of Jamie.  Then in the late 70s and early 80s it was a fad name for girls.  And now Jaime is back to being mostly a boys’ name.


Jan is a Brady Bunch name that was given to more than half girls from the 1940s through the mid-80s.  Now Jan is more than 90% male.


Jean was a very popular name for girls into the 1980s, when it became less fashionable for girls and remained in use mostly among French-speaking parents. Now nearly 80% of the 248 children named Jean are boys.


As with Jean, Joan has morphed from a stylish girls’ name to an ethnic choice used two-thirds of the time for boys.


Jody started as a male name but by 1957 had become 85% female.  Since 2000 more than half of the children named Jody have been boys.


Jude was always predominantly a male name but in the Judy era its use neared one-third female.  Now Jude is virtually 100% male.


In the 1970s Kai was used nearly half the time for girls, but now it’s used for over 80% boys.


In 1982, 90% of the Kirbys were male and then suddenly in 1983, the name became over 60% female.  Now Kirby is fading back to blue, with two-thirds of the Kirbys boys.


Kris was over half girls until the early 1970s when the gender balance shifted.  Now Kris is nearly 80% a boys’ name.


Kyle was never really a girls’ name but in the 1950s as many as a third of the bearers were girls.  Now virtually all Kyles are boys.


Lane started as all male but was long used quietly for girls, peaking at a third girls in 1983.  Now Lane is virtually an all-boy name.


First used late 19th century almost always for girls but the gender balance tipped in the 1970s and now the name is mostly boys.


When Phoenix was first used in the early 1970s, it was almost always for girls, but by the early 90s that shifted and the name is now more than 60% male.


In the 1950s, a third of Shawns were girls, but now the name is virtually all boy.


Toby was more than half female until 1950.  Since the 1970s more than 90% of Tobys have been male.


In the late 19th century Theo was predominantly female.  Fifty years ago, a third of Theos were female.  Now the name is 100% male.

Tristen and Tristin

While Tristan has always been male, spelling variations Tristen and Tristin were all-girl when they were first used in late 1960s.  Now they’ve swung back and are more than 90% male.

Be sure to check out our new Unisex Names home page and to see Steve Ruble’s full chart!


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38 Responses to “Unisex Baby Names: Going to the boys”

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KateMP91 Says:

June 12th, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I know a baby boy named Jody =)

None of these surprised me too much except Kyle. I had no idea it had ever been a female name, I kinda like it for girls!

karacavazos Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 12:15 am

Very interesting to see some of these that I hadn’t thought about! Crazy how they can just go back and forth like its no big deal.

sarahmezz Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 2:32 am

Names I consider exclusively female: Amari, Angel, Cortney (awful spelling), Dee, Dominique, Dusty, Germaine, Jaime, Joan, Jody.

Names I consider exclusively male: Artie, Donnie, Ashton, Cruz, Darian, Darnell, Lavon, Vernell, Deon, Deshawn, Lashawn, Devon, Elisha, Kai, Kyle, Shawn, Toby, Theo, Tristin.

Names I consider truly unisex: Casey, Kerry, Frankie, Carey, Kerry, Jan, Jean, Jude, Kirby, Kris, Lane, Phoenix.

sarahmezz Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 2:33 am

Whoops, I doubled up on a couple of names in the unisex category!

kyemsma Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 4:12 am

I was so happy to see Kyle on the list as a predominantly boy’s name! I was very surprised to see Theo was once a girl’s name.

upswingbabynames Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 4:54 am

I’m happy to learn that Jude is almost all boy now.

My daughter has a friend in her class, Caleb. Caleb has a baby brother named Jude but for months I thought Caleb had a baby sister named Jude because that’s what my daughter told me. She must have assumed Jude was a girl, but to me Jude is all-boy. I was so relieved to learn that Caleb and Jude were both boys!

Ysaline Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 5:35 am

Very interesting! I suppose this means that other names which currently appear to be ‘going to the girls’ might swing back at some point and become more masculine again. I wonder if there will be greater acceptance in the future of names that are truly unisex – neither strongly feminine or masculine – now that names like Taylor and Dakota and many more have been widely used for both sexes. I suspect the diversity of names being used today means kids are already more tolerant of difference when it comes to names than kids of my generation were, although certainly if they want to find a reason to tease someone they might still latch onto his or her name as something to make fun of.

Pam Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 8:13 am

Sarahmezz, I think what Steve’s chart does that’s so valuable is makes it easy to see how our assumptions on the gender of names measure up to the real numbers! Of course you can look up a split in how many children of each gender received the name in any year and also compare popularity standing on the nameberry page, but it’s really amazing to look at the movement over time.

namefan Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 8:49 am

Besides those mentioned in the blog that actually shifted from predominately female to predominately male, it’s also worth mentioning that there are also examples that are still predominately female but the gap has narrowed. Notably this has happened with names such as Kelly, Robin, and Shannon now that they’re out of style for girls (they’ve declined for both genders but less so for boys, so they make good candidates for someone wanting to try and “reclaim” one for their own son since they’re familiar but not common either way nowadays). In the upcoming decades I think that Morgan and Taylor may follow a similar path, so I think they’d also be good candidates for reclaiming.

Kateri Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 10:26 am

I cannot imagine a man’s Joan!

Kateri Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 10:27 am

I cannot imagine a male Joan!

Pam Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 10:31 am

Namefan and Ysaline, I agree!

Luvinbeingmomma Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 11:04 am

I would love to see Kelly go back to the boys. I dont think there are many little girls, or boys running around with that name…I think most are just tired of it. I would find it so refreshing to meet a little boy Kelly.

sweets12 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 11:18 am

My middle name is Dionne but generally every Deon/Dion I meet is male. So I’d say this is right from my own experience.

mge28 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 11:42 am

Names that are all girl to me: Amari, Jan, Jean, Joan, Kerry/Carey, Dominique, Dee, and Kris.

Names that are all boy to me: Artie, Donnie, Frankie, Ashton, Cruz, Darian, Darnell, Elisha, Vernell, Dusty, Jaime, Germaine, Jude, Kai, Kirby, Kyle, Phoenix, Toby, Theo, and Tristan.

Names that are truly unisex to me: Angel, Cortney, Deon, Devin, Lane, and Shan.

Deshawn and Lashawn and Lavon aren’t even names.

mge28 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 11:42 am


skizzo Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 11:43 am

The problem is hardly any of these are used considerably, so the switch is hardly noticeable. Going girl however is still FAR more common, even with popular boy names.

charlottesmommy23 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Maybe in a couple of years, Aubrey will swing back to being an all-boy name and I can use it for my son. Wishful thinking.

maggiemary Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I’m delighted to see that Elisha is now very much on the boy’s side. Wahoo!

coconutcreampie Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 5:11 pm

As a mom of four boys, one of whom is a Toby, I love to see unisex names go to the boys. Now if only Bailey would head the same direction!

jpruitt76 Says:

June 13th, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I had no idea Kyle, Theo and Toby had ever been so popular as girl names – interesting! The only girl Kyle’s I’ve ever met were born in the 80s or later. I’ve never met a female Theo or Toby of any age (although I do know of a few Theas and some Teddys).

frustratedauthor Says:

June 14th, 2013 at 1:13 am

Good to see these names sliding into the blue. Especially pleased about Toby, Kyle, Elisha, Ashton, and Phoenix.

benjamelissa Says:

June 14th, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I know a 50-something Lavon female and a 40-something Deven female and a 7-year-old Taylor male.

Gretel Says:

June 15th, 2013 at 5:24 am

It really doesn’t matter to me whether a name leans female or male, but I’m happy to have counterexamples like this to calm those who get so upset over girls “stealing” traditionally male names, as if the name is therefore forever unusable for boys.

I think parents in general are getting a less uptight about giving unisex names to boys, even when they know said names are used equally/mostly on girls, which is a good thing for baby naming.

habert Says:

June 15th, 2013 at 10:11 pm

mge28: Exactly why aren’t Deshawn, Lashawn or Lavon not names? They’ve all made it onto the top 1000 at one point or another, so what exactly is the criteria?

OceaneBreeze Says:

June 17th, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Interesting! I love Kyle as a girls name!

yw2 Says:

June 17th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

The name Joan on your list really surprises me. I always think of Joan of Arc…never heard it on a boy.

My brother is a Devan. I know in the U.K. it’s a popular spelling for girls. However, in the U.S. (south) I’ve only met female Devons.

I like Germaine, Cortney, and Lane better as girl names.

To me, Kyle, Toby, Dusty, Cruz, Theo, Jude, and Phoenix are strictly boys.

Was Griffin ever popular for girls? I’ve meet a female Griffin, but never a guy by that name…although I think of it as a guy’s name.

tori101 Says:

June 17th, 2013 at 4:40 pm

So interesting and I’m glad that the boys are conquering some choices over the girls. It’s annoying seeing some boys names slowly disappearing such as Madison so this was interesting and great too see. Despite this I do find some of these choices for boys really strange like for example Joan.

@yw2 being from the UK and living in the UK (south east England) and am surprised that you think Devan is popular for a girl as I have never ever stumbled across this choice before which makes me think that it isn’t popular.

Unisex Baby Names: Names that morphed from blue to pink – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

September 10th, 2013 at 8:22 am

[…] unisex baby names start as female choices and shift over time to become more boyish, but many more begin as all-boy names and over the decades cross to the girls’ […]

CandaceMarie321 Says:

September 10th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I’m excited to see Carey going back to the boys, I wanted to name a boy Cary a la Cary Grant or Cary Elwes (OK, mostly Cary Grant), but my hubby complained “it’s a girl’s name.” I doubt this article would convince him, but hopefully we won’t be naming any more boys anyway.

leahmarie512 Says:

September 10th, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I would venture to say that some of these names were/are popular for boys and girls for different reasons.
For example:
Jaime — For a boy this is a Hispanic name pronounced HYE-may, but on a girl I’d guess it’s used as an alternate spelling of Jamie
Elisha — On a boy this is a Biblical name, pronounced ee-LYE-shuh, while on a girl I’d think that it’s an alternate spelling of Alisha (uh-LISH-uh, eh-LISH-uh).
Dominique — I’d guess that the parents who use this name on males are looking for a yooneek spelling of Dominic.

Isabellissima Says:

September 14th, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I would add that I think Jean shifting to boys is that we’re looking at two different names. Jean pronounced like in blue jeans, is an English female name but boys being called Jean are being called the French Jean which is pronounced differently. It’s probably more a cultural shift than a gender shift, if you know what I mean.

Unisex Baby Names: Names That Morphed from Blue to Pink | giggle GAB Says:

November 19th, 2013 at 1:12 pm

[…] unisex baby names start as female choices and shift over time to become more boyish, but many more begin as all-boy names and over the decades cross to the girls’ […]

21 Boy Baby Names That Were Originally Used For Girls | Phactual Says:

February 9th, 2015 at 12:53 pm

[…] it can and does go the other way. These baby names, compiled by NameBerry, were, at one time, given to more girls than boys, but now the opposite is true. Here are some of […]

Quora Says:

September 24th, 2015 at 10:51 am

Is there a female name that adapted a male version later?

It’s surprisingly hard to find names that were originally female. A lot of names were either unisex and not exclusively female or were exclusively male and later completely shifted to female. In fact, the list of names that shifted from male to female…

babymagic Says:

August 21st, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Jude actually started as a unisex name, long before the Judy era.

“Jude is found in use as a name in England from the 16th century — there is scant evidence that it was used in Wales or Scotland at this time. Usage of the name was consistent throughout this period, though it was not especially common. Baptisms from the 16th and 17th century also show that the name was unisex, used almost equally for boys and girls, though in different concentrations, depending on location.”

LoboMarina Says:

May 14th, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Interesting list! But for some of these, aren’t the male and female versions actually two different names that are spelled the same way? For instance, Jan may be pronounced like a nickname for Janet if it’s on a girl, but the boy’s name is pronounced like Yann. The Hispanic boy’s name Angel is pronounced Ang-hel, whereas the girls use an Anglicized pronunciation. And Devon tends to have an emphasis on the first syllable for girls and on the second syllable for boys. I consider these names to be homonyms, not really the same name used for both girls and boys.

LoboMarina Says:

May 14th, 2019 at 4:04 pm

PS — also Jean, the female name is pronounced like blue jeans, and the male name is like a French John (e.g., Jean-Luc Picard).

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