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Unisex Baby Names that Morphed from Boy to Girl

Unisex Baby Names that Morphed from Boy to Girl

Some unisex baby names start as female names and shift over time to become more heavily male, but many more begin as all-boy names and over the decades cross to the girls’ side.

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:

Addison

100% male in 1880, 98% female in 2018

Jumped to 55% female in 1996

Alexis

100% male in 1882, 71% female in 2018

In 1942, Alexis leaped to 69% female from 42%

Allison

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2018

From 1942-1948 it jumped from 52% to 80% female

Ashley

100% male in 1880, 99% female in 2018

Crossed the line in 1965 to become 64% female

Aubrey

100% male in 1880, 97% female in 2018

In 1974, tipped to 52% female

Avery

100% male in 1880, 79% female in 2018

Became 52% female in 1999

Bailey

100% male in 1880, 94% female in 2018

Began its rise in 1980 when it was 64% female

Beverly

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2018

While Beverly started out in the US statistics as all boy, it quickly moved to the female side, becoming 55% girls by 1898.

Billie

100% male in 1880, 96% female in 2018

As early as 1890, this was 55% female

Blair

100% male in 1881, 93% female in 2018

Shift began in 1981 at 57% female

Blakely

100% male in 1920, 99% female in 2018

This has been consistently more female since 1991, when it flipped to 58%

Brook

100% male in 1915, 75% female in 2018

In 1972, rose to 60% female, influenced by the more feminine Brooke. As Brook’s usage falls, it is becoming more balanced again.

Cassidy

100% male in 1968, 92% female in 2018

In 1972, Cassidy became 59% female

Charley

100% male in 1880, 85% female in 2018

The balanced tipped in 1987 when Charley became 51% female. The Charlie spelling has only been more female since 2016.

Dana

100% male in 1880, 91% female in 2018

In 1955 Dana became 50% female

Darcy

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.

Delaney

100% male in 1912, 99% female in 2018

Consistently used more for girls since 1981, when it reached 71%

Diamond

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.

Eden

100% male in 1917, 76% female in 2018

Used for girls from early on, and in 1946 was 100% female

Emerson

100% male in 1880, 61% female in 2018

In 2003, Emerson flipped to 56% girls

Emery

100% male in 1880, 91% female in 2018

In 1996, Emery was 50/50

Finley

100% male in 1880, 58% female in 2018

Girls have outnumbered boys since 2004

Hadley

100% male in 1906, 99% female in 2018

Hadley shifted to being a majority girls’ name consistently in 1969.

Harley

100% male in 1880, 83% female in 2018

In 1994, girls first outnumbered boys with 52%

Harlow

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.

Harper

100% male in 1881, 98% female in 2018

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Harper’s gender identity kept shifting but it tipped toward the girls’ side consistently starting in 1991.

Haven

100% male in 1899, 91% female in 2018

The scales tipped in 1980 at 51% female

Hilary

100% male in 1882, 69% female in 2018

In 1944, Hilary crossed the gender line toward the girls’ side for good…or did it? In 2018, it was given to 11 girls and 5 boys.

Kelley

100% male in 1882, 58% female in 2018

1954 marked Kelley’s crossing to the girls’ side

Kelsey

100% male in 1891, 98% female in 2018

Kelsey’s gender identity kept shifting throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but in the early 70s it crossed permanently to the girls’ side.

Kendall

100% male in 1906, 83% female in 2018

Kendall and Kendal were mostly male names until the 1980s, when they began veering into female territory, tipping permanently in the early 1990s.

Kennedy

100% male in 1912, 97% female in 2018

Kennedy was only 35% female in 1992 but the next year it jumped to 62% female.

Kenzie

100% male in 1918, 99% female in 2018

Crossed over into girl territory in 1970

Kim

100% male in 1912, 85% female in 2018

Kim was quietly used for both boys and girls until the mid-50s, when it jumped to the female side.

Lauren

100% male in 1884, 100% female in 2018

In 1945 it crossed permanently to the girls’ side thanks to the very feminine Lauren Bacall.

Leigh

100% male in 1882, 85% female in 2018

In 1947, Leigh became 52% female

Leighton

100% male in 1893, 73% female in 2018

Leighton shot up for girls in 2008, when it tipped the balance at 57%.

Lennon

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.

Lesley

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.

Lindsay

100% male in 1880, 100% female in 2018

It began flirting with androgyny in the late 1940s but tipped permanently to the female side in 1966.  The Lindsey spelling crossed over in 1969.

London

100% male in 1886, 86% female in 2018

London was used for both sexes throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, but crossed mostly to the girls’ side in 1990.

Lynn

86% male in 1880, 82% female in 2018

In 1942 it was 56% female

Madison

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.

Marley

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.

Mckenzie

100% male in 1917, 99% female in 2018

There were no female McKenzies until 1975, and then by 1976 it was two-thirds female.

Mckinley

100% male in 1890, 93% female in 2018

Mckinley crossed the gender divide permanently in 1998, thanks to the popularity of both Mackenzie and Kinley.

Meredith

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.

Michele

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.

Monroe

100% male in 1880, 81% female in 2018

This longtime male name only began a significant shift to the girls’ side in 2009.

Morgan

100% male in 1880, 85% female in 2018

With the rise of actress Morgan Fairchild, tipped in 1980 to 60% female

Oakley

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.

Paris

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.

Payton

100% male in 1880, 86% female in 2018

Payton and Peyton both became used more often for girls than boys in 1992, though the Payton spelling is now 86% female while Peyton is 79% female.

Presley

100% male in 1880, 93% female in 2018

Spiked from mostly male to 80% female in 1990

Quinn

100% male in 1915, 80% female in 2018

The Glee character made this 51% female in 2010

Reagan

100% male in 1913, 93% female in 2018

Tipped toward the female side in 1973 with the popularity of The Exorcist.

Reese

100% male in 1880, 86% female in 2018

Reese did not become used for more girls than boys until 2003, with the rise of Reese Witherspoon’s celebrity.

Remi

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.

Riley

100% male in 1880, 80% female in 2018

Riley was 51% female in 2003

Sandy

100% male in 1880, 85% female in 2018

In 1935, Sandy was 50/50.

Shannon

100% male in 1881, 69% female in 2018

Shannon crossed the 50% mark for the first time in 1929 and within the next decade became primarily a girls’ name.

Shelby

100% male in 1880, 96% female in 2018

In 1936, Shelby jumped from a mostly-male to an 88% female name.

Shelly

100% male in 1882, 100% female in 2018

1937 was the year Shelly became 51% female

Skylar

100% male in 1959, 95% female in 2018

In 1994, Skylar crossed to 52% female.  The Skyler spelling didn’t make the switch until 2014.

Stacy

100% male in 1880, 91% female in 2018

Stacey crossed the gender line permanently in 1952.

Stevie

100% male in 1919, 94% female in 2018

Rocker Stevie Nicks tipped this name to the girls’ side in 1983

Sutton

100% male in 1912, 67% female in 2018

Sutton Foster helped her name to cross the gender line in 2012 with 60%

Sydney

100% male in 1880, 98% female in 2018

Sydney began to be used significantly for girls in the 1930s and crossed the halfway line permanently in the early 1940s.

Taylor

100% male in 1881, 82% female in 2018

1990 was the year Taylor became 52% female (the year after Swift was born)

Whitney

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.

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

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