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?

Brook Brooke 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?

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

Jai Dev’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?



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20 Responses to “Unisex Baby Names: The Nameberry 9–Blue, Brook and Sky”

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southern.maple Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 12:02 am

Unless you’re a farmer and/or harvest time actually has significance to you, I think Harvest is sort of weird… It makes me wonder what exactly the parents intend to be harvested from the child.

mkenison Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 12:07 am

Great post! I am a huge fan of unisex names. Both of my girls have names that are not considered traditionally feminine. I am glad to see that the boys are starting to reclaim some territory. Brook is one of my favorites to return to team blue!

stripedsocks Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 12:08 am

I sort of like Harvest, a bit of the masculine equivalent to Autumn.

Was thinking about it as a way to name for a granddad Harvey. But I think I might not be brave enough: Hale seems the much safer option for a boy.

greenkoko Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 3:36 am

This seems weird but I actually like the name Harvest!!

Mara_lyn86 Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 4:03 am

The only one from this list I would consider is Brook. Harvest is a interesting choice but I am not brave enough to use as a first name.

nat108 Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 4:08 am

There are twin NBA players named Brook & Robin Lopez. Love Brooks but I’d never considered Brook until I saw him. Brooke for a girl is so dated but Brook for a boy is refreshing

OnceUponaName Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 7:31 am

I am not a big fan of most unisex names. But I do like some word names that might be considered unisex (Ever, Lyric). I don’t like any on here though, except maybe Blue. Thankfully, as a writer I’m allowed to use weird names for characters! And I have known both a female and male Brook, both under 18.

encore Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 8:24 am

I too wonder the roots of Kline. I’m not sure if I would say boy or girl since I’ve never heard it before.
Harper is definitely a girl to me.
Harvest I would say boy I think.
Sky definitely works as a boy’s name, but I prefer the girl’s name Skye.
Brooks is ok for a boy but Brook is too much like Brooke, definitely girl.
Dev is a great name, and Jai is cool, by far the most masculine names on this list.
Blue seems to be the most unisex on this list, being a word name.
And any form of Elliott seems like a boy’s name, although I really like the French spelling Eliette for a girl.

skizzo Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 9:03 am

I’d use Sky and Blue for boys in a heartbeat, I love them.

AmandaRhiannon Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 10:06 am

Kline made me think of Collins, the name of Michael Oher’s sister in The Blind Side. I would assume, like I did about Collins, that it is a family last name or something.

kristenj15 Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 10:19 am

I pondered Harvest for a few moments but quickly remembered that our church’s Kid Ministry is called Harvestland. That would be like a boy named Mason going to church at Masonland 🙂

Poppy528 Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 10:54 am

I’m incapable of reading Sloane as anything other than Slow-Anne. Drop the E plz.

Alexia Mae Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I think Kline might have been inspired by Patsy Cline.

Danni Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I am puzzled by Kline. It looks like the parents tried to match baby girl’s name to mom’s by spelling Cline with a K. I hope Kline proper is a family name, otherwise, yarf.

I have always loved Harper better for a boy (yes, I am aware of the Harper Lee connection, but Harper still rings masculine to me). Along these gentle giant lines, I like Sky and Elliot for boys.

Dev is interesting (probably because it rhymes with one of my favorite sleek boy choices: Lev) but I am so over Sloan(e) and Brook(e) for either sex. All variations of those names scream trendeigh to me.

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Thrilled to see Sky on a boy – I think, as was said of Brook, that Sky seems a bit tacky and boring on a girl, but fresh on a boy.

Blue seems completely gender-neutral to me, and I can imagine it on either a boy or a girl.

pengie Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I like unisex names for girls more than boys, though I do like the name Brook for a boy.

googoogixie Says:

August 6th, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Harvest creeps me out a little. It has this sort of children of the corn/doctor who/post-apocalyptic/vampire kind of weirdness too it that I just can’t get past. But then again maybe I should lay off the sci fi.

Abby Says:

August 7th, 2012 at 4:21 am

@Alexia Mae – Now that’s an interesting theory. Love Patsy Cline, but never would have thought to use Cline to honor her … not sure why not. Then again, I get a very different vibe from Kash than Cash. Cash screams Johnny to me, while Kash, well … I just find myself thinking about the K the whole time.

MeleriHaf Says:

August 7th, 2012 at 11:18 am

I grew up with a boy named Brooke. I always felt sorry for him on the first day of school when the teachers looked first suspicious, then suprised when they realized the Brooke in their class really was a boy. He was really shy and quiet, too. I always wondered if it was because of his name. So while I love the idea of true unisex names, please remember that reality doesn’t always work that way.

Scrambledmegs Says:

August 13th, 2012 at 12:47 am

I know a 20-something female Harvest, so I’m intrigued that it’s being perceived as masculine. I think it’s in the same vein as Haven for a female.

To me, Sloane without the E looks unbalanced, and I wouldn’t use it. E only, please! Regardless of gender.

I’ve also met a male Brooks and I find it rather dashing on a man!

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