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Unisex Baby Names….or are they really?

unisex baby names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

There are many names that look unisex, feel unisex….but are they really?  Going by the strictest definition of the term, are these names truly used for babies of both genders?

In many cases, no.  The names here, which many people consider unisex, were actually used overwhelmingly for one gender over the other.  Figures are based on the 2013 US statistics, and were compiled with the help of intern Megan Garon.

Names 95 percent or more female

Names 90 to 95 percent female

Names 95 percent or more male

Names 90 to 95 percent male 

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14 Responses to “Unisex Baby Names….or are they really?”

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Theodora_Phoenix Says:

February 23rd, 2015 at 11:59 pm

I had always thought Bailey was almost equal- I know it was when I was little.

lesliemarion Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 12:58 am

I think of Bailey as equal, though I prefer it on a male, and I think of Marlowe as totally male.

Otherwise, I do think that few names today really are unisex. Riley and Rory maybe.

babymagic Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 1:21 am

These statistics are misleading. I’d have a lot more faith in these numbers if they looked at a trend over a certain number of years instead of proclaiming names “not unisex” based on one year alone (2013). Some of these names would not have made these lists just one, two or three years before. These lists present a snapshot in time – but the overall trend may differ, in some cases slightly and in others significantly.

Let’s take Blakely for example. Looking at the SSA data, in 2007 Blakely was 65% female. In 2011 it was 89% female. That’s quite the variation. And in both of those years Blakely wouldn’t have made the lists presented here. It would be a lot more helpful to take an average of 5-10 years and draw conclusions from there.

And what about spelling variations (Ray/Rae, Luca/Luka/Lukah)? Those are bound to skew the numbers as well.

babymagic Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 1:31 am

@theodora_pheonix

You’re right. In 1999, Bailey was 54% female, according to the SSA data. So almost one out of two 16-year-old Baileys would be male. Even if it is leaning female these days, it is still a solidly unisex name.

I think just because a name leans one way or another over time, it doesn’t undue the fact that the name is unisex. Those 16 year old Baileys are still alive after all.

maggiemary Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 6:53 am

As well as only presenting a snapshot of just one year, I think it’s also important to remember that this represents usage here in the US only, and in other countries some of these names are used predominately on boys.

Looking at the England & Wales statistics for 2013, of the 725 babies named Bailey (and I counted all spellings), 81% of them were boys.

Some of the names defined as female here, are still predominately (or in some cases strictly!) male in other countries, and I think it’s careful we don’t label the gender of a name based on US usage only. There is a whole world beyond on our shores after all!

maggiemary Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 6:54 am

* That should read “I think it’s important we don’t label…”, not sure why I put careful, must be brain freeze!

epowell Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 9:17 am

I was surprised to see Rene in the nearly all male list. Definitely not the case here in Texas. Some of these names I’ve never heard on boys before…like Marlow.

Interesting list.

Theodora_Phoenix Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 10:12 am

Most people probably don’t realise Logan is NOT one of the more recent boy names sometimes given to a girl. It has been used for girls since ths 90s at least, and a little more than 5 percent of Logans in the USA are female.

Pam Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 10:13 am

We’ve written before about how different names’ gender usage changes over time and cover the subject in the excellent chart on our Unisex Names page: http://nameberry.com/unisex-names

Yes, this piece deals only with the US and only with one year, but for many parents actively looking at baby names, a name’s cultural context at this moment is what’s most important.

TaylorBlueSkye Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 10:24 am

I’d love to see a post about what names are traditionally unisex, maybe take a name many might even consider not unisex and show different origins for it that makes them legitimate for boys and girls. I guess there might be some surprises there. Like are names like Parker actually male? Aren’t they surnames and are surnames always considered male? Noah might be the translation of Hebrew Noach, which is pronounced differently than Noah. Noa on the other hand is pronounced that way and is traditionally female. (I don’t know if that is really true, I was giving an example.)

cgwaltney Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 11:42 am

So basically my name is ALL boy! Ugh – _ –

skizzo Says:

February 24th, 2015 at 11:43 pm

The problem is Nameberry is most of these cases discourages parents from using these names on their sons, and say stuff like “too feminine”, “dont you dare name him this”, “long gone to the girls”, “he’ll get teased”, “beware its getting used increasingly on girls” even if its minimal, “only for a girl”, etc. But then when its the other way around, even with classic male names, “this would make a fresh girl name”, “this would be cool on a girl”, “a girl can definitely pull this off”, even when the ratio is 99% male. I hate the double standard here.

Jennai Says:

February 25th, 2015 at 4:50 am

@skizzo: That is because we still live in a world that is hostile towards women (misogyny). Just look what is happening in Turkey or in Nigeria or in any other country that thinks women are only second best or have any worth at all for that matter.

A boys’ name on a girl makes the girl “cool”, a girls’ name on a boy makes the boy “weak”.

indiefendi2 Says:

March 22nd, 2015 at 1:07 am

I love Cassidy on a boy, I don’t care what anyone says.

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