Menu

Unisex Names That Switched From Boy to Girl

Unisex Names That Switched From Boy to Girl

It’s hard to imagine Lauren, Lindsay, Madison and Sydney as anything other than girl names. But rewind 100 years and they were used mainly — or even exclusively — for boys. So were a lot of other names that are now more female.

Unisex names are rarely perfectly gender-balanced. They’re usually given more to one gender or the other, and the balance changes over time.

Sometimes it just takes one famous namesake to tip the name over to the opposite sex. In the 1940s, Hollywood star Lauren Bacall (real name Betty Joan Perske) had an astronomical impact on a rare-but-mostly-male name. More recent influencers turning baby boy names into girl names include Reese Witherspoon, Sutton Foster, and Madison, Daryl Hannah’s mermaid character in Splash.

Meanwhile, some names switch gender because of a gradual change in which sounds are fashionable. Emery, and later Avery, became more viable as girl names with the rise in popularity of Emily, Emma, and Ava.

Here, we take a look at names that were once 100% male, but are now mainly female, using the USA’s list of popular names for 2020.

A few are 100% female: they were given to 0-4 boys in 2020, so they aren’t on the charts. They are all somewhat dated for girls, too:

The most gender-balanced names on the list either crossed the gender divide recently, like Emerson, Finley, and Oakley; or are falling for girls while remaining stable for boys, like Alexis, Shannon, and Taylor. Most, though not all, of the names here are surnames and place names, a style that is particularly gender-fluid.

Here, some of the most popular girl names that were once 100% male, along with the year they moved permanently to the girls’ side.

Unisex Names That Changed from Boy to Girl

Addison: 98% female in 2020. More female since 1996.

Alexis: 63% female in 2020. More female since 1942, but trending more unisex again.

Allison: 99.8% female in 2020. More female since 1942.

Ashley: 98% female in 2020. More female since 1965.

Aubrey: 96% female in 2020. More female since 1974.

Avery: 79% female in 2020. More female since 2018.

Bailey: 95% female in 2020. More female since 1980.

Beverly: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1898.

Billie: 97% female in 2020. More female since 1890.

Blair: 95% female in 2020. More female science 1981.

Blakely: 99% female in 2020. More female since 1991.

Brook: 74% female in 2020. More female since 1972.

Cassidy: 94% female in 2020. More female since 1972.

Charley: 87% female in 2020. More female since 1987. (Bonus fact: the Charlie spelling has only been more female since 2016.)

Dana: 90% female in 2020. More female since 1956.

Darcy: 96% female in 2020. More female since 1941. (In Australia, Darcy is still more popular for boys.)

Delaney: 98% female in 2020. More female since 1981.

Diamond: 83% female in 2020. More female since 1976, but trending back toward gender-neutral now it’s past peak popularity for girls.

Eden: 77% female in 2020. More female since 1946.

Emerson: 58% female in 2020. More female since 2003, but trending back towards a gender balance.

Emery: 90% female in 2020. More female since 1998.

Finley: 57% female in 2020. More female since 2004.

Hadley: 99% female in 2020. More female since 1969.

Harley: 79% female in 2020. More female since 1994.

Harlow: 94% female in 2020. More female since 2002 (and much more so since 2008, thanks to Nicole Ritchie’s daughter).

Harper: 98% female in 2020. More female every year since 1991. (It switched sides several times in the 1970s and 80s.)

Haven: 90% female in 2020. More female since 1980.

Hilary: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1944.

Kelley: 65% female in 2020. More female since 1954.

Kelsey: 97% female in 2020. More female since 1972.

Kendall: 84% female in 2020. More female since 1993.

Kennedy: 96% female in 2020. More female since 1993.

Kenzie: 99% female in 2020. More female since 1970.

Kim: 79% female in 2020. More female since 1955, but trending back towards a gender balance.

Kinley: 99% female in 2020. More female since 1979.

Lauren: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1945.

Leigh: 80% female in 2020. More female since 1947.

Leighton: 70% female in 2020. More female since 2008.

Lennon: 74% female in 2020. More female since 2015.

Lesley: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1941. (The Leslie spelling has always been used for both sexes; in 2020 it was 95% female.)

Lindsay: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1966.

London: 85% female in 2020. More female since 1990.

Lynn: 87% female in 2020. More female since 1942.

Madison: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1985 (the year after the movie Splash made it famous).

Marley: 85% female in 2020. More female since 1962.

Mckenzie: 99% female in 2020. More female since 1976.

Mckinley: 90% female in 2020. More female since 1998.

Meredith: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1921.

Michele: 81% female in 2020. More female since 1931.

Monroe: 83% female in 2020. More female since 2009.

Morgan: 80% female in 2020. More female since 1980, but heading back towards a gender balance.

Oakley: 61% female in 2020. More female since 2016.

Paris: 92% female in 2020. More female since 1983.

Payton:88% female in 2020. More female since 1992. (The Peyton spelling was 80% female in 2020, and also more female since 1992.)

Presley: 93% female in 2020. More female since 1990.

Quinn: 82% female in 2020. More female since 2010 (thanks to a Glee character).

Reagan: 94% female in 2020. More female since 1973 (inspired by The Exorcist’s Regan, and perhaps also Ronald, who was then Governor of California).

Reese: 85% female in 2020. More female since 2003 (the Witherspoon effect).

Remi: 88% female in 2020. More female since 1990.

Riley: 80% female in 2020. More female since 2003.

Sandy: 88% female in 2020. More female since 1937.

Shannon: 59% female in 2020. More female since 1937, but trending back towards gender-neutral.

Shelby: 93% female in 2020. More female since 1936.

Shelly: 100% female in 2020. More female since 1937.

Skylar: 96% female in 2020. More female since 1994. (Skyler also started out male, and didn’t switch to a girl majority until 2014.)

Stacy: 94% female in 2020. More female since 1952.

Stevie: 96% female in 2020. More female since 1983.

Sutton: 67% female in 2020. More female since 2012.

Sydney: 98% female in 2020. More female since 1940.

Taylor: 79% female in 2020. More female since 1990, but the gender gap is closing again.

Whitney: 96% female in 2020. More female since 1962 (the year before Whitney Houston was born).

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from the next high-rising names to how to choose a multilingual name, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. She has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and lives in England with her husband and toddler. You can follow everything she reads about names on Twitter or Scoop.it, or reach her at clare@nameberry.com