Unisex Baby Names that Morphed from Boy to Girl
The baby names here are extreme cases. Most started life, back when the US government began recording babies’ names, as 100% male choices, and now have become mostly girl names.
Interestingly, a lot can change in a few years. This blog post was first posted in 2013 using the US 2012 data. We’ve updated it with the 2018 data — the most recent available — and while some names are now leaning even more to the girls, others have gone back the other way. We’ve lost two names, Gale and Milan, because they’re majority boy names again. (Thanks, Hunger Games.)
In other words, it’s not a one-way street! Notable unisex baby names that are becoming less strongly female and more gender-balanced include Alexis, Brook, Diamond, Hilary, Kelley, Kim, Michele, Quinn, Sandy and Shannon. Many of these feel somewhat dated for girls, so girl numbers have dropped while for boys they remain more constant.
Names that lean significantly more female since 2012 include Billie, Blair, Emery, Haven, Skylar and Stevie.
Now for the grand list. The baby names that have morphed from XY to XX – and when they made their big switch – include:
100% male in 1880, 98% female in 2018
Jumped to 55% female in 1996
100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2018
From 1942-1948 it jumped from 52% to 80% female
100% male in 1880, 99% female in 2018
Crossed the line in 1965 to become 64% female
100% male in 1880, 97% female in 2018
In 1974, tipped to 52% female
100% male in 1880, 79% female in 2018
Became 52% female in 1999
100% male in 1880, 94% female in 2018
Began its rise in 1980 when it was 64% female
100% male in 1880, 96% female in 2018
As early as 1890, this was 55% female
100% male in 1881, 93% female in 2018
Shift began in 1981 at 57% female
100% male in 1920, 99% female in 2018
This has been consistently more female since 1991, when it flipped to 58%
100% male in 1915, 93% female in 2018
Became mostly a girls’ name in 1941, at 60%. In Australia, Darcy is still more popular for boys.
100% male in 1912, 99% female in 2018
Consistently used more for girls since 1981, when it reached 71%
100% male in 1897, 89% female in 2018
Though it was used as a female name early on, the continual increase began in 1976 at 57%. Now it’s past peak popularity, the gap is closing again.
100% male in 1917, 76% female in 2018
Used for girls from early on, and in 1946 was 100% female
100% male in 1880, 61% female in 2018
In 2003, Emerson flipped to 56% girls
100% male in 1880, 58% female in 2018
Girls have outnumbered boys since 2004
100% male in 1880, 83% female in 2018
In 1994, girls first outnumbered boys with 52%
100% male in 1882, 95% female in 2018
Used mainly for girls since 2002, but much more so since 2008, thanks to Nicole Ritchie’s daughter.
100% male in 1899, 91% female in 2018
The scales tipped in 1980 at 51% female
100% male in 1918, 99% female in 2018
Crossed over into girl territory in 1970
100% male in 1893, 73% female in 2018
Leighton shot up for girls in 2008, when it tipped the balance at 57%.
100% male in 1913, 66% female in 2018
Almost equal numbers in 2013-2014, but in 2015 the girls reached 58% and left the boys behind.
100% male in 1882, 100% female in 2018
Shifted in 1941 at 54%. The Leslie spelling, interestingly, was less thoroughly male in 1880 and is less thoroughly female now; it crossed to the girls’ side in 1946.
86% male in 1880, 82% female in 2018
In 1942 it was 56% female
100% male in 1880, 99% female in 2018
A quietly-used name almost always for boys until 1986, when Splash made it a female star.
100% male in 1914, 85% female in 2018
Very quietly used, mostly for boys, until the mid-1960s when it emerged as mostly a girls’ name.
100% male in 1917, 99% female in 2018
There were no female McKenzies until 1975, and then by 1976 it was two-thirds female.
100% male in 1883, 100% female in 2018
Although the earliest Merediths were male, the name gained significant female use from 1910 on and crossed the gender line permanently in 1921.
100% male in 1905, 79% female in 2018
Steadily used as a male Italian name, but eclipsed as an alternative spelling of Michelle since 1931.
100% male in 1880, 81% female in 2018
This longtime male name only began a significant shift to the girls’ side in 2009.
100% male in 1884, 56% female in 2018
This name has skyrocketed for both genders since 2010, but girls edged into the lead in 2016.
100% male in 1991, 93% female in 2018
This mythological male name first achieved majority-female status in the early 1960s, but didn’t become a mostly-girls’ name until the 1980s.
100% male in 1880, 93% female in 2018
Spiked from mostly male to 80% female in 1990
100% male in 1915, 80% female in 2018
The Glee character made this 51% female in 2010
100% male in 1913, 93% female in 2018
Tipped toward the female side in 1973 with the popularity of The Exorcist.
100% male in 1915, 90% female in 2018
This name has been back and forth between genders, but has been consistently more female since 1990. The Remy spelling is (just) more male.
100% male in 1880, 80% female in 2018
Riley was 51% female in 2003
100% male in 1912, 67% female in 2018
Sutton Foster helped her name to cross the gender line in 2012 with 60%
100% male in 1884, 97% female in 2018
Whitney crossed the line in 1962, when it jumped from 41% to 72% female.
A note on the percentages: we’ve rounded up/down to the nearest whole number, so if a name here is 100% female, it doesn’t always mean there were zero boys with that name. (For example, eight male Allisons were born in 2018.) Also, the SSA data only includes names given to five or more children of each sex. So names that don’t rank on the boys’ charts (like Beverly) could have been given to four boys or none.
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on September 9th, 2013 at 10:58 pm
I can’t believe Meredith was at first 100% male and then 100% female! That’s a really impressive change for a name.
on September 9th, 2013 at 11:03 pm
This list makes me sad.
on September 10th, 2013 at 1:53 am
I agree with Southern Maple – this makes me sad. But it’s an interesting list. I really wish all names ending in “-son” (i.e. Addison, Allison and Madison) would switch back to boys. The names literally mean “son of” so I don’t understand why they became girls names in the first place. I’m very surprised about Ashley, Darcy and Lindsay being (more or less) completely female nowadays since I know several men with these names and think they’re much better as boys names, too. Lauren is an interesting one – I actually have an uncle Lauren. He’s married to Loretta and I’m sure many people think they’re a lesbian couple when they see their names written lol. And Diamond? Who names their kid Diamond anyway? Lastly, another couple of interesting gender crossing names would be Evelyn, Jamie and Vivian. My husband is named Jamie and gets irked every time he hears of a female Jamie lol.
on September 10th, 2013 at 2:04 am
I’m saddest about Aubrey, Darcy and Gale crossing over. I think they’re such strong, masculine names. Perhaps the new series The Hunger Games might tip Gale back into boy territory?
on September 10th, 2013 at 5:51 am
Charlotte means “free man” so I never really get what’s the difference between Charlotte and Madison.
It’s interesting to see that names like Madison, Kennedy and Hadley are more on the girl’s side than Dana. I would love to see Dana on little boys, to me is has the Ezra feel with it.
on September 10th, 2013 at 5:58 am
It’s depressing how many names have lost over time…
on September 10th, 2013 at 6:01 am
I am with maple and Sarah – this is disappointing. Kendall, Charley, Morgan and Shannon are especially handsome for a boy and not very pretty for a girl. I can understand Sam for Samantha and Charley for Charlotte but as full names…no.
on September 10th, 2013 at 6:08 am
I know a male Darcy and Kendall. This list is a little bit sad. I love Kelley and Shannon for a boy.
on September 10th, 2013 at 6:09 am
Hilary, Beverley, Lauren, Whitney, Stacy – I have yet to stumble upon males with those names, so girly! Wait another few hundreds of years and what names would be around then? For now Surnames first names are so hip.
on September 10th, 2013 at 6:30 am
The good thing is most of these are still MALE in the UK: Ashley, Aubrey, Avery, Bailey (top100), Blair, Cassidy, Charley, Emery, Kendall, Kennedy, Leslie, Marley, McKenzie, McKinley, Milan, Monroe, Morgan, Presley, Quinn, Reese, Taylor
on September 10th, 2013 at 6:41 am
My name is Kennedi and my daughter is Ellison…both sound like girl names to me!
on September 10th, 2013 at 7:39 am
I came across a male hilary on paper yesterday at work! Wasn’t sure if it was male until I saw the birthdate in the late 1930s. Didn’t even realize it was a boy name but once I saw it in this older man it made sense. I really like it! Wonder how many Larrys out there might really be hilarys in disguise..
on September 10th, 2013 at 7:42 am
I’d be interested in the list of “unisex baby names (that) start(ed) as female choices and shift over time to become more boyish.” Mostly because I can’t think of any.
on September 10th, 2013 at 7:43 am
Some of these are really depressing. I love Ashley on boys.
Though I do like Meredith on girls.
Is there going to be a follow up with girls names that are becoming uni-sex as well?
(I know this these are harder to find and not as popular but would be incredibly interesting.)
on September 10th, 2013 at 7:58 am
I wonder wher Mallory comes out? It was traditionally male but I see it mostly on girls now.
on September 10th, 2013 at 8:01 am
We did a blog back in June about names that started out as more girlish and have moved toward the boys’ side. Here’s the link: http://nameberry.com/blog/unisex-baby-names-going-to-the-boys
on September 10th, 2013 at 8:30 am
This is why I think great caution and foresight is in order if you’re intent on giving a boy a surname name. There may be a few safe ones like Wellington, Rutherford, Wentworth, and Grant, but after learning of Lincoln Bell, who knows?
There is a White Sox pitcher named Addison Reed, and his name, to me, has a nice male vintage appeal. But, I wouldn’t give it to a boy, personally, especially with the ‘Addie’ diminutive. He is called ‘Reeder.’
Cameron is another one that is too female for for male use, in my opinion.
on September 10th, 2013 at 8:31 am
Mommyesquire, Mallory is interesting. In 2012, nearly 1000 girls were named Mallory and fewer than five boys, meaning Mallory does not even appear on the SS list for boys’ names.
In 1900 there were no children named Mallory of either sex. In 1950, there were 26 of EACH sex so it was rare but exactly evenly distributed between the genders. Similar thing in 1970. Even in 1980 — only 17 girls but down to 8 boys. By 1982, 45 girls and 9 boys.
Then in 1983, the year it first made the SS list for girls and the year after Family Ties debuted, there were 689 girls named Mallory and only 10 boys. So Mallory was kind of the Miley or Marley of that moment but its burst in popularity, tied directly to a female character, was only for girls.
Thanks for taking me on that little side journey.
on September 10th, 2013 at 8:44 am
I wouldn’t give Jordan to a boy either.
For a long time I thought Quinn was too female because of actress Quinn Cummings, but now I’m moving toward male on it. The shifts over time is what’s fascinating about naming patterns.
on September 10th, 2013 at 8:50 am
I know right off the bat that some of these are wrong. http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/limits.html has the names beyond the top 1000. I’m guessing some of the other stats also inaccurate but the names that popped out to me that I know are not 100% female are:
16 boys named Ashley
30 boys named Madison
46 boys named Shelby
on September 10th, 2013 at 9:25 am
@nat108, I figure they probably went with “100%” if the number of boys (or girls) given the name was deemed statistically insignificant. It’s a reasonable decision, imo. If only 16 of the 4694 Ashleys born in ’12 were male, we’re looking at 0.34%. That’s just a drop in the Ashley bucket.
For me, many of these names crossed over so long ago, their use on males feels like an anachronism, and I won’t be shedding any tears over the “loss” of them.
on September 10th, 2013 at 9:49 am
‘There were no female McKenzies until 1975, and then by 1976 it was two-thirds female.”
Well, there was Laura Mackenzie phillips aka Mackenzie Phillips, using the Scottish ‘Mac.’ The other ‘early’ Mackenzie I recall was indeed a boy, son of John Astin and Patty Duke Astin.
on September 10th, 2013 at 9:50 am
Lauren and Michelle surprised me but I knew Ashley and Lindsay use to be male names. My daughter, my mother and me all made this list, my moms name Beverly was a surprise, but i know my name Stacie and my daughters name Alexis are unisex.
on September 10th, 2013 at 10:34 am
I just don’t understand why these names are “lost”. I mean if you like them on a boy, they are totally valid names for boys. Why not move them to the other side again? It’s not the people who started using these names for gilrs who made them cross over to the other side but the people who stopped using them for boys.
on September 10th, 2013 at 11:45 am
I’m in total agreement with TaylorBlueSkye above. It’s not just being used on girls, it’s the choice to not use them for boys. It’s not stealing so much as giving the name over.
And I’m in the minority, but most of these “boys” names are on my Girls list and not a single one except Harper is on my boys list. (I read a book with a fabulous male Harper. And I love the name.)
If either of our babies were going to be a girl, she’d have been an Emerson. Also on my short list: Hadley, Addison, Avery and Haven among others.
My sister is Shannon – much better as a girls name in my opinion.
and my husband actually has an Uncle Les, as in Leslie, born 1926. The only son among 4 “L” named children.
on September 10th, 2013 at 11:59 am
@GoodHope- If they chose to round up/down then that’s fine but it should be clearly stated. As is, they are misleading their audience. Articles like this help to scare people away from these names. If someone is wavering on Shelby and they see that the name is 100% female then they are going to believe that ZERO boys were given this name. They’re thinking ‘Nobody uses this name anymore so maybe we shouldn’t either’. But if they see that the name was in fact used 46 times that is reassuring. ‘This name is not 100% girl so we aren’t alone in liking it for our son.’
on September 10th, 2013 at 12:51 pm
I have known a male Cassidy, Quinn, Morgan, and Kelly, but only female Ashleys, Aubreys, Kelseys, Taylors, Danas, Shannons and Whitneys. OH! And I babysat a female Peyton (name taken from the football player).
I would love to meet a little male Gale. Hopefully the Hunger Games helps that one out–I think it’s so masculine, it makes me think of the wind and a forest and nature. But with all the little Abigails running out, I somehow think it won’t happen.
Marley, Harper, Hillary and Lauren are all definitely feminine to me. The rest could go either way.
on September 10th, 2013 at 1:10 pm
I don’t understand why anyone should feel sad regarding this list. There’s nothing stopping a parent from using any of these names for a boy or a girl. This is just another analysis of that particular name’s history. If a parent is too afraid of what others will think to use a name they really like, THAT’S what is sad. People throw around the “Boy Name Sue” cliche whist completely forgetting the message of the song, which is, having an unusual name made the protagonist a stronger, more confident person. I mean fine, name your kid Harry when you really prefer Hillary. But what message are you sending to your son? That in life, it’s better to blend in and not draw attention to yourself, lest you be ridiculed or considered “different.” What a teachable moment missed.
on September 10th, 2013 at 3:06 pm
Sidney (this spelling) will always be male to me, nothing feminine about it at all.
on September 10th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
Interestingly, when I was in Newfoundland this past summer, I met a male Lindsay (in his 40s) and a male Shannon (teenager). I found it rather refreshing!
I hate to see Milan go to the girls. It’s a strong Slavic male name to me.
on September 10th, 2013 at 4:28 pm
I know males named Aubrey, Avery, Kendall, Shannon, and Darcy. Two names that I think should be blue on here are Garnet and Arden. Growing up, I heard the name Quinn on a female character on a soap opera. I think it sounds fine for either a boy or a girl. There are a lot of these names that appeal to me for a boy only – Aubrey, Bailey, Charlie -and I cringe when I hear girls with these names. I guess it is what I am used to. Of course, I could never imagine males named Meredith or Allison these days. I wonder if there were people like me back in 1910 that cringed when they heard the name Meredith on girls!
on September 10th, 2013 at 4:33 pm
I’m glad no one uses these for boys anymore. Except for Monroe and Mckinley they all sound so feminine.
on September 10th, 2013 at 5:55 pm
nat108 and others, I used the chart here http://nameberry.com/unisex-names and also looked at the actual numbers from the Social Security site to do this analysis. If the percentage of children given a certain name is less than .5 percent, it’s common practice to round that down to 0% rather than up to 1%, but you’re right, it is somewhat misleading in that in some cases there ARE a few males with that name.
As the SSA does not make public cases when a name is given to fewer than five children, there is no way of knowing in some cases — as with Beverly, say — whether there were actually four boys named Beverly or zero.
I have no agenda here, to make people use these names for boys or not, and as people have said, that is the parents’ choice. But if you are considering a unisex name for your child, it makes sense to be aware of its history and gender identity. I’ve heard several parents say they are looking for a name for their sons that is used more often for girls and for their daughters that is used more often for boys, because they want to defy gender conventions. I wish someone like that would write about it for us!
on September 10th, 2013 at 6:58 pm
Most of the Lindsays, Emerys, Kellys, and Sidneys I know are male…but then again, I don’t know any under the age of 5. The only names on here that I would consider using for a child of mine are Darcy, Cassidy, Reese, and Sidney, but I would only ever consider them for a boy. I suppose I am several decades behind “the times” lol 🙂
on September 10th, 2013 at 7:53 pm
My dad is a 1953 Kim, and he was shocked to find out recently that it was a top 150 choice for boys that year, when he has always felt like it is a clearly female name. For all of you wanting to reclaim these names for boys, from my sample size of 1, my dad has always disliked having a name normally assumed to be female.
on September 10th, 2013 at 8:47 pm
first of all Bailey is still 100% dog to me or maybe just 90% dog.
Charley would still be mostly male if it wasn’t such a nickname. I bet a lot of the Charles go by Charlie/Charley. Charles is #62 for boys. Charlie as a boys’ name still exists. Charley that spelling is all tuna fish to me.
Same with Stevie. Stephen/Steven are all male. Stevie for a dude is cute nickname, but too much of a nickname for a full name.
Quinn still has potential for a boy. It’s still ranking for a boy.
Now, I think gender restrictions are becoming less rigid as the country becomes less homophobic.
Secondly I think particularly over time names that were popular for girls get old and less in (like Ashley for example) they may go back to the boys. Keep in mind Asher is becoming popular. So Ash has gone from being almost 100 Or 90% female when I was kid to in this next generation almost 90% male. (Prediction)
on September 11th, 2013 at 9:23 am
“Keep in mind Asher is becoming popular. So Ash has gone from being almost 100 Or 90% female when I was kid to in this next generation almost 90% male. (Prediction)”
There’s a good reason, though, for Asher being used for boys. It’s a biblical name. Asher is one of the names of Jacob’s (Israel’s) 12 sons, and progenitor of the tribe of Asher. Ashley has more in common with, say, Ashton than Asher. Asher’s rise might have something to do with the current popularity of A names (Atticus, Abraham, Asa, Ava, Abigail, Avery, Annabelle), or the movement away from overused biblical names (Joshua) toward fresher sounding or more offbeat (Silas, Ezra) ones. This is what I’m noticing in the evangelical subculture, at least.
on September 11th, 2013 at 11:52 am
I actually think it’s kind of sad that so many brilliant boys names have been taken by the girls!! Thankfully most of these names such as Morgan and McKenzie (a name I hate) are used for boys still in the UK.
on September 11th, 2013 at 3:58 pm
@ LuMary Actually most of the people I know who love Asher, are not particularly religious nor do they care about religious implications. It’s just a cool name.
on September 11th, 2013 at 7:24 pm
Interestingly, Darcy was in the top 100 (at #100 though) for boys in Australia 2012 (where I live)! http://www.behindthename.com/top/lists/au/2012
on September 12th, 2013 at 7:17 am
September 11th, 2013 at 3:58 pm
“@ LuMary Actually most of the people I know who love Asher, are not particularly religious nor do they care about religious implications. It’s just a cool name.”
Oh, I agree! I wager most Americans are probably not aware of Asher’s biblical origin. I believe the name rose to its current use because of two, possibly even parallel, non-intersecting streams: ‘A’ names popularity, and a search for biblical alternatives. However, I think because of the yet very recent girl monopoly of Ashley, Asher unlikely, at this juncture, achieved its current heights without the influence of some individuals or groups of individuals with biblical literacy. Once the name became a part of American consciousness, though, its origins, which happen to be biblical, became inconsequential, and less understood. You’re right, we tend to like a name first before we exlpore its etymology.
on September 13th, 2013 at 7:55 am
There are so many beautiful girls names we didn’t need to steal from the boys. I think many of these names are too manly for any sort of girl to have. Harper, Charley? Really? What sort of monster would do that to their beautiful daughter? She’s forever doomed to the life of a tomboy.
I’m most sad about Avery! My little 7 year old brother is Avery. We constantly see these older girls walking around with a boys name. He thinks his name was a mistake. It’s just ridiculous.
About Asher. The thing is that it has that distinct male “er” ending, no soft vowel ending like most of these other cross overs. I’m sure some “trendy” parents will pick it up for their girls though. 🙁
on September 14th, 2013 at 1:03 am
When I was growing up in the United Kingdom during the sixties and seventies, every Robin I knew was a boy. In the thirty-five years I have lived in the United States, almost every Robin I have met has been female. I do not know if British couples still give that name to their sons, but it appears that couples here in the U.S. only give it to their daughters.
on September 19th, 2013 at 11:57 am
on October 7th, 2013 at 9:58 am
If unisex names had anything to do with gender equality, we’d have a bunch of little boys running around named Kylie, Emma, and Isabel. Almost every name on this list was 100% male, turned 95-100% female. All these -son names for girls- Madison, Emerson, Alison, etc mean “son of.” I’ll jump on the unisex bandwagon when I meet a few dozen little boys named Rebekah.
Almost every name on this blue to pink list is a name of someone, or multiple people, I know.
I found the list of girls names that went to the boys here on nameberry. I know very few people with any of these names. It is a list of names that are either:
*uncommon or fairly new to the SSA top 1000 (i.e. Phoenix, Amari, Leshawn)
*names like Jean and Jan that have different pronunciations depending on the gender/ ethnicity (Jan is pronounced YAHN, Jean is pronounced ZHAHN), or,
*names that were once male, changed to female, and are male names again.
Very disappointing to see this gender inequality with names. I look forward to the day I hear someone name their son Blossom… and it catches on as a top 100 name.
on November 8th, 2013 at 4:42 am
Out of all them I can only see Addison, Bailey, Blair, Hadley (never heard it before but sounds like a boys name to me), Kennedy, Madison (maybe, I have a 9 year old girl cousin named Madison but it has the son ending and son of meaning..), Marley (had a guy friend named Marley), Mckinley, Morgan, Presley, Reagan, Shannon (only because I know a male Shannon, which at first I was like, but that’s a girls name..), Skylar, and Stevie, on a boy.
Of those only Hadley, Kennedy, Presley, Reagan and Stevie seem like only boy names for me, the rest I named I could also see on a girl.
I don’t know what to think of this except times change.
on December 22nd, 2013 at 2:54 pm
Alexis is still a boy’s name in Europe, since it is originally from Russia and France. Several little girls have been named “Alexie” in the recent years in France, because it ends in “ie” which is rather a girl-sounding names in Europe, but most people would never use it for a girl.
I’m amazed everytime I see a really boy-sounding names being used for a girl in the US. This is something very alien in France (and in a lot of European countries). No one would even think of doing so, because names’s roots are too deep in our culture, i guess.
Also, even if we have the right to name kis however we want, I doubt that the offices where the parents declare their child would allow such a thing.
I know that in Germany, switching the gender of a name is forbidden. I read that neutral or unisex names dont really exist and a boy has to have a boy name. Same for girl. Maybe it will change when people start giving more foreign names and that the state doesnt know if said names are feminine or masculine…
That’s just my vision of this topic from Europe 🙂
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Most of these names are derived from surnames anyway, so can never have been said to be intrinsically masculine or feminine. Aubrey and Hilary have always been unisex too, representing the English forms of both Alberich and Alberada, Hilarius and Hilaria. Oddly enough, the only one on the list which started out as a male-only name is Meredith.
I can picture all of these names on either gender, except for the ones with an element meaning “son of” (e.g. Mckenzie, Emerson) which just seem too masculine for a girl in my opinion.
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