Unisex Baby Names: Going to the boys

June 12, 2013 Pamela Redmond
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!


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.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles


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