Unisex Baby Names: Five new entries
Every year names move up and down, on and off the US Social Security Administration (SSA) charts of popular names. A name will appear on the charts if it has been given to more than four babies of one gender in that year. Usually when a name enters the lists, it enters for one gender first and takes some time to chart for the other one (if it ever does).
Take the now unisex name Cameo for example. Cameo first entered the girls chart in 1957. But it wasn’t until 1979 – more than 20 years later – that it started to chart for boys too. It also charts more irregularly for boys than it does for girls.
So it’s fair to say that it takes quite a special name to simultaneously enter both the boys and the girls charts for the first time in the same year. There is something about it that has captured the imagination of parents, who think it has a sound and feel that could work for either gender.
In 2012 there were five such unisex baby names to enter the charts:
IREOLUWA – Given to 11 girls and 8 boys in 2012
Also written IreOluwa, apparently it is pronounced ee-ray-o-LOO-wah. I’ve never actually heard it in person though, so if this is wrong feel free to correct me in the comments below!
Ireolewa comes from the Nigerian language of the Yoruba people, consisting of Ire, meaning a ‘blessing or positive thing’ and Oluwa meaning ‘God’, hence this name most likely means ‘blessing from God’. Many Yoruba names contain the element Oluwa, and Ireoluwa is quite similar to Oreoluwa, which means ‘gift of God’.
This is an appealing sounding name with a beautiful meaning – a great option if your family/child is of Nigerian or even African descent.
KENTLEE – Given to 5 girls and 6 boys in 2012
In recent years we’ve seen almost every spelling of Kinley, Kinsley, Kenley, and Kensley imaginable. Then came Kentley and Kentleigh. I guess it was only a matter of time before people branched out a little more and came up with Kentlee. Another smoosh, Kent means ‘edge’ and ‘Lee‘ means ‘meadow’, so Kentlee would mean ‘meadow’s edge’.
As a name, this is not quite as soft sounding as it’s predecessors. It does however have quite a modern, surname-y feel to it that is quite popular at the moment. However it is likely to get slightly lost in this group of similar sounding names. Interestingly, Kentley has also charted for the both genders in the last couple of years, but the Kentleigh spelling has so far been reserved for girls only.
MATHAI – Given to 10 girls and 8 boys in 2012
If you missed the second season of ‘The Voice’, you may not recognise the inspiration behind this name. Sharon Mathai – known only as Mathai – is a singer from Texas who was born in Queens to Indian parents. She made it to the top ten on ‘The Voice’ as a member of Adam Levine’s team after a strong performance of Adele‘s ‘Rumour Has It’ in the blind auditions , and has recently released her debut single ‘Once Again’.
Mathai is pronounced mah-TYE, and it’s easy to see why parents are attracted to it for both boys and girls. Nickname Matty is popular for both genders, as is the name Tye/Ty/Thai. It’s quite an attractive sounding name. If Mathai’s career takes off the way the judges on ‘The Voice’ think it will, we could be seeing a lot more of this name.
MUSIC – Given to 6 girls and 6 boys in 2012
I find it amusing that with all the time I’ve spent pondering about musically related names, I missed the most obvious one – Music. It’s fabulous in it’s simplicity, and I’m surprised it hasn’t appeared on the charts before now considering the popularity of word names. Could be a very cool name to have.
ZIKORA – Given to 6 girls and 10 boys in 2012
The last name on this list is also a Nigerian name, this time from the Igbo people. Zikora is actually an abbreviated form (or nickname) for the longer names Zikoranachidimma, Zikoranachukwudimma or Zikoranaudodimma. The first two of these mean ‘show the world that God is great’, while the third means ‘show the world that peace is great’, so Zikora would have both of these meanings.
I’m not sure how this one is pronounced, although it’s likely zi-KOR-ah, which is quite spunky sounding. Especially with that Z sound. Since it’s more of a nickname than a “traditional” African name, it’s one that could possibly also work well for people without an African background.
Overall it’s a pretty cool list of new entrants – I can see why they appealed to parents of both boys and girls. Only time will tell if these name will be flashes in the pan or will have real staying power.
Brooke Cussans – better known on the Nameberry forums as bluejuniper – is based in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of name blog Baby Name Pondering. She especially loves rare and unusual names.
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on August 26th, 2013 at 1:57 am
I love Kentlee! My sister’s name is Makenna and one of my nicknames for her is Kennalee, maybe that has something to do with it.
on August 26th, 2013 at 7:27 am
I wouldn’t consider any of these actually.
on August 26th, 2013 at 1:20 pm
Friends of mine named their son Mathai! It’s Matthew in the Malayalam language (the dad’s heritage).
on August 26th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
I agree with navygirl7 I wouldn’t use any of these names. Still interesting read : )
on August 27th, 2013 at 7:03 am
I don’t really like Ireoluwa. It’s just too much! There would be so many mispronounciations and wrong spellings. It sounds very pretty, though, once I figured out how to say it.
Kentley is really cute. Mainly for boys, imo, with the nn Lee or Kent.
Music would be good as a middle name for a little girl.
Mathai would have mispronounciations, too. It sounds good too, but for boys only, to me.
Zikora would be better if it were Zekara (Zee- kar- uh). I made that up, but I think it sounds better. I don’t personally think any of these unisex names will ever become very popular. I do think Kentley might, though. Great list! 🙂
on August 28th, 2013 at 10:03 am
Lol it’s cool to see Nigerian names on here (I’m Nigerian). Ireoluwa was interesting to me though, because usually the Oluwa part is at the beginning. I know an Oluwatobi (Tobi), Oluwakemi (Kemi), and the popular rapper Wale’s full name is Olubuwale. I think it’s somewhat easier to where when the Oluwa is in the beginning. The second Nigerian name, Zikora, is one I’ve never heard, which is surprising because my family is Igbo. It is extremely long, even for someone used to those names haha.
on August 29th, 2013 at 1:57 pm
I had a professor in college named Oluwatade (Tade). I didn’t realize that the Oluwa part is a common name prefix. Cool!
Unisex Baby Names: the new entries for 2013 – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Said
on June 3rd, 2014 at 10:41 pm
[…] of the posts I did last year that I really enjoyed was Unisex Baby Names: Five new entries – a list of those names special enough to simultaneously debut for both girls and boys in […]
on August 17th, 2020 at 11:01 pm
I think it’s really weird that most of these names are from or related to nonwhite people, yet the cover photo is of a white baby. I also think it’s weird that these names are presented as “exotic” on many of these lists, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
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