Unisex Baby Names: The Nameberry 9–Blue, Brook and Sky

Unisex Baby Names: The Nameberry 9–Blue, Brook and Sky

In this week’s Nameberry 9, Appellation  Mountain ‘s Abby Sandel focuses on several interesting  unisex baby names in the news.

Few subjects are as divisive as gender neutral baby names, and yet I can’t stop talking about them.  Some of us deny their very existence.  Others are willing to call a daughter James, but hesitate to name a son Avery or Madison.  Many of us are discovering nature names or other novel appellations, ones that don’t easily declare themselves pink or blue.

Not every culture splits names into such neat categories, and names certainly shift over time.  Plenty of ends-in-a options, like Noah and Joshua have become favorites for boys, even though they’re very different from the once-dominant Bob, Tom, and Bill – proof that we can reconsider names every generation, if not more often.

This week’s baby name news suggests that more and more of us are willing to consider truly gender neutral names.  It makes me wonder if this is a short-lived trend, or part of a larger transition.  In a few more decades will many names appear on both the boys’ and girls’ Top 1000s?  Or will spelling evolve so that we can tell at a glance if the bearer is a he or a she?

The most newsworthy baby names from last week all had a modern, sleek feel – even those with history aplenty.  Most of them could also be called gender neutral:

Kline OliviaMike Eli, singer for the Eli Young Band, and his wife Kacey have welcomed a daughter.  Their firstborn is called Kline Olivia, a mix of gender neutral nouveau name and wildly popular feminine choice.  I love the rhythm, but I’ll admit that Kline has me puzzled.  Is it from a family tree, or could Kline be a new entrant in the Brooke/Blair/Sloane category?

Harper – It’s a girl for Saturday Night Live funnyman Bill Hader and wife MaggieHarper joins big sis Hannah at home.   A few years ago, audiences would have been evenly split on whether Harper is best for boys or girls.  Today, she’s clearly on Team Pink. 

Harvest – The letter H is having a good run, and there are plenty of possible new name options to consider.  Harbor and Hale are two of my favorites.  Bewitching Baby Names recently covered Harvest.  File this one under possibilities that would work for a boy or a girl – especially if you’re due in the next few weeks.

Sky Cole – Actress Elizabeth Berkley is a new mom.  Rachel Zoe has a Skyler and now Elizabeth has welcomed a boy called Sky.  After a few years of meeting girls named Skyla and Skye, could this nature name element be leaning blue?  If that’s the case, does that make Sky as versatile as Jay, or does it suggest that nature names will simply tend to remain gender neutral?

BrookBrooke became a 20th century staple for girls, tailored but solidly considered feminine, thanks to famous bearers from Astor to Shields.  Now Brooks and even Brook seem to suggest that parents are willing to reclaim the name for a boy, an alternative to the popular River.  He recently made an appearance in a birth announcement at Waltzing More than Matilda.  Could we be headed for an era when Sloane is a girls’ name, but Sloan signifies a son, the equivalent of Jordynn and Jordan?

DevDaya Vaidya and husband Don Wallace welcomed twin sons at the end of July.  The younger son is called Dev Eshaan.  Both names have Sanskrit roots, but Dev feels thoroughly modern – masculine, but brisk, too.

JaiDev’s twin is Jai, another Hindi choice for the Nepal-born dancer and actress.  Like Dev, Jai is completely at home in the twenty-first century, a perfectly matched brother for Dev.

Blue – But it is Dev’s middle name that really caught my eye – and inspired this post.  Blue seems to be catching on as a fashion-forward middle for both genders, replacing Rose and James and Anne.  The boys’ big sister has a conventionally feminine appellation – Leela Grace, while Jai Blue feels just narrowly on the masculine side.

Elliotte – Did you read Marla Sokoloff’s blog about her daughter’s lung surgery?  Thankfully, her little one is recovering nicely, but it reminded me of her unusual name.  Is Elliotte an unnecessary attempt to make a masculine name feminine, a modern and acceptable adaptation of a new favorite for boys, or a spin on the French Eliette?  I initially found Elliotte a bit much, but I’ll admit – she’s really grown on me.

Are there names that seem feminine or masculine to you based on spelling?  Do you think we’ll see more gender neutral names in the coming years, or does it strike you as a fad?

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.