Unisex Names: Toward a Gender-Free Ideal?

Unisex names and the question of whether a child’s gender should be evident via his or her name is one that comes up frequently on Nameberry.  It’s an issue that’s changed a lot over the years we’ve been writing about baby names and that varies substantially in different cultures.

Starting with the baby boomlet of the 1980s, the first wave of feminist parents gave girls androgynous names like Morgan and Parker to make them more competitive with boys…..while parents of boys abandoned unisex names in favor of more traditional masculine choices.   Next came names that broke away from traditional boy or girl choices — Logan and Lake, Bellamy and Finn — but still somehow held onto a gendered identity.

Despite vast changes in naming practices around the world, some ancient cultures accommodate names that work for either sex — Japan is a notable example — while other countries such as Norway require that names carry gender identity.  Germany changed its naming laws in 2008 to allow the use of unisex names.

Now both those ideas seem outmoded, tied to old notions about masculine characteristics being superior to feminine ones and children needing to be marked by gender even in modern, subtle ways.

A newer development we’ve been covering recently are newly-trendy boys’ names inspired by their fashionable sisters: We mean Emmett as a masculine corollary of Emily and Emma or Everett as a male version of Eva or Evelyn.  This seems to us to be symbolic proof of the new attitude that girls can lead and boys can happily follow, a modern spin on the centuries-old Adam‘s Rib-style practice of fashioning girls’ names from masculine ones: Geraldine from Gerald, Roberta from Robert.

The new frontier, and the new ideal to many modern parents, are names that transcend any gender identity at all.  We see parents “reclaiming” for their sons gender neutral names that had veered girlward and names rising in tandem for both sexes.

There’s a lot of controversy over androgynous names and their desirability, and we’d welcome a further discussion of that in the comments to this post.  But we’d like to go on the record in support of anything that frees people from confining stereotypes, name and gender related and beyond.

There are all kinds of reasons you might or might not want a gender-free name for your child.  But these are the unisex names we see today as transcending gender:





















Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)





































Here’s more on the numbers behind unisex names.

Nameberry includes thousands of unisex names.  Click on the link to see them all.

Buy the gorgeous rainbow hat in the photo at Beanie Designs.


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51 Responses to “Unisex Names: Toward a Gender-Free Ideal?”

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WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

August 22nd, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I think a lot of these names are only unisex in North America – many of them look pretty firmly gendered to me!

Rin Says:

August 22nd, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Alex – unisex
Angel – girl
Avery – boy
Bay – unisex i guess, reminds me of the horse colouring
Blake – boy
Brett – ALL boy
Cameron – both, but would assume male if on paper
Charlie – unisex nick-name, male given name
Corin – ALL boy
Dakota – girl
Devon – unisex
Dune – boy
Dylan – would assume boy
Ellington – boy
Elliot – boy
Ellis – boy, Alice is for girls
Emerson – boy, “son” ending is silly on girls
Emery – unisex i guess, don’t like it
Garnet – girl
Gray/Grey – boy
Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn) – boy, that “son” ending again
Jaden – boy
Jalen – boy (ew)
Landry – All boy
London – girl
Lou – nickname, unisex
Luca – boy
Marlowe – girl
Merritt – unisex
Micah – would’ve said boy a few years ago
Nico – all boy
Parish – boy
Parker – boy
Payton/Peyton – boy (ick)
Reilly/Riley – unisex
Remy – boy
Rio – unisex
River – unisex
Rory – boy
Rowan – BOY
Sage – unisex
Salem – boy, reminds me of the cat in “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”
Sam – unisex nickname
Sasha – girl as a given name, could be boy as nickname for Alexander
Sawyer – boy
Sayer – boy
Seneca – girl
Sky – unisex
Skyler – unisex
Storm – unisex
Story – girl
Teagan – girl
Tiernan – boy
Tenzin – boy
Timber – boy
True – unisex
Winslow – boy

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

August 22nd, 2012 at 11:33 pm

To me, unisex names would be Ashley, Jade, Taylor, Blue, Addison, Harper, Harlow, Willow and Quinn, as examples.

Poppy528 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 1:17 am

Oh I love Remy, Sascha, and Gray almost evenly between the genders, maybe slightly preferred on boys. Ellington on a girl is really great!

erin13 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:34 am

Alex – unisex, if it’s a nickname for Alexandra/Alexa/Alexis etc.

Angel – girl

Avery – boy

Bay – more of a nickname imo, so unisex

Blake – boy!!

Brett – boy

Cameron – boy

Charlie – a nickname, so could be both

Corin – boy

Dakota – maybe unisex but I think more girl

Devon – boy

Dune – boy

Dylan – boy

Ellington – boy

Elliot – boy

Ellis – boy

Emerson – boy

Emery – boy

Garnet – unisex

Gray/Grey – boy

Grayson/Greyson – boy

Jaden – boy

Jalen – boy

Landry – boy

London – girl

Lou – this is more of a nickname for me, and it could be for Louise/Louisa or Louis so unisex

Luca – boy

Marlowe – unisex

Merritt – boy

Micah – boy

Nico – boy

Parish – boy

Parker – boy

Payton/Peyton – boy

Reilly/Riley – boy

Remy – boy

Rio – boy

River – boy

Rory – boy

Rowan – boy

Sage – unisex

Salem – boy

Sam – again, nickname, so unisex

Sasha – I think this actually depends where you’re from, if you’re from an English speaking country then girl, if not then it’s probably more boy

Sawyer – boy

Sayer – boy

Seneca – boy

Sky – girl

Skyler – boy

Storm – boy

Story – boy

Teagan – girl

Tiernan – boy

Tenzin – girl

Timber – boy

True – girl

Winslow – boy

I find this very interesting. The US seem to have a much more relaxed view on unisex naming than we do in the UK. If you brought your daughter named Rory or Greyson over here you’d probably get a multitude of strange looks and/or raised eyebrows. (Having said that, I think Rory on a girl is a guilty pleasure thing of mine. So cute!)

pam Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:41 am

Erin, so funny because I DID bring my daughter named Rory to live in London in the early 90s and I DID get a multitude of strange looks and raised eyebrows. People were, to use a Britishism, gobsmacked….

Aurra Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:48 am

Alex- Male name, unisex nickname

Angel- Girl

Avery- Unisex

Bay- Girl

Blake- Definitely boy

Brett- All boy

Cameron- Spelled this way, boy.

Charlie- Male name, unisex nickname


Dakota- Girl

Devon- Boy

Dune- Boy

Dylan- Boy

Ellington- Boy

Elliot- Boy all the way

Ellis- Boy

Emerson- Boy

Emery- Boy

Garnet- Boy

Gray/Grey- Boy

Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)- Boy, but I know a girl named Gracen

Jaden- Girl

Jalen- Unisex

Landry- Unisex

London- Girl

Lou- Boy

Luca- Unisex

Marlowe- Girl

Merritt- Girl

Micah- Unisex

Nico- Definitely boy

Parish- Unisex

Parker- Unisex

Payton/Peyton- Boy

Reilly/Riley- Girl (all the Rileys I know are girls)

Remy- Unisex nickname

Rio- Boy

River- Boy

Rory- Boy name, unisex nickname

Rowan- Boy

Sage- Unisex

Salem- Girl

Sam- Boy name, unisex nickname

Sasha- Girl

Sawyer- Boy

Sayer- Boy

Seneca- Unisex

Sky- Girl

Skyler- Girl

Storm- Boy

Story- Girl

Teagan- Girl

Tiernan- Boy

Tenzin- Boy

Timber- Boy

True- Girl

Winslow- Boy

JessicaT11 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 7:39 am

Why are people still assigning gender to these. I agree they’re all unisex. Basically if I met a man or a woman with any of these names I wouldn’t bat an eye. It wouldn’t shock me in the least and I think a lot of people in my generation are the same way. We might (inwardly groan) not like the style but the shock value is nearly gone and that speaks volumes about how far equality between the sexes has come in the US.

encore Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 8:20 am

Here are my opinions.

Alex – definitely unisex. I prefer Alex too be a nickname for Alexandra when it’s a girl, but that’s not required. For a boy I like it as a nickname and a full name.

Angel – I’ve heard of many girls with this name, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but personally I like Angel for a boy and Angela for a girl.

Avery – unisex but I prefer it for a girl

Bay – such an uncommon name it could definitely go either way

Blake – unisex

Brett – definitely boy

Cameron – unisex

Charlie – unisex nickname

Corin – I’ve never heard this before so definitely either sex

Dakota – unisex

Devon – probably leans towards boys but I really like it for both

Dune – I’ve never heard this name before…

Dylan – I like this better for a boy but I’ve met several girls with the name.

Ellington – unisex

Elliot – unisex

Ellis – unisex

Emerson – seems more boyish

Emery – seems more boyish

Garnet – never heard this before

Gray/Grey – could work either way

Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn) – definitely boy

Jaden – I like it better for a boy but it works for both

Jalen – same as Jaden

Landry – unisex

London – seems to lean to girl to me

Lou – boy but I see how it’s unisex

Luca – unisex but I prefer Luca for a boy and Lucia for a girl

Marlowe – unisex

Merritt – hmmm…. not sure. unisex i suppose.

Micah – definitely boy

Nico – probably the most masculine name on this list

Parish – neither really…

Parker – unisex

Payton/Peyton – completely unisex and works!

Reilly/Riley – unisex

Remy – unisex

Rio – unisex

River – unisex

Rory – unisex but I like it for a boy

Rowan – leaning towards boy

Sage – girly to me

Salem – unisex

Sam – very unisex nickname and works! (like Alex)

Sasha – unisex, depends on your culture I think

Sawyer – boy

Sayer – unisex

Seneca – unisex

Sky – unisex (girl = Skye)

Skyler – unisex but I like it for a girl

Storm – unisex but I like it for a boy

Story – girl

Teagan – very girly to me

Tiernan – unisex

Tenzin – unisex

Timber – very masculine

True – girl I think

Winslow – unisex

abelle2 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 8:32 am

I couldn’t agree with Jessica more. They are all unisex. I know little girls named Landry and Parker. Angel is a male character on Dexter, so I’m not sure why people are so quick to label that as “girl”. While none of these are my style, I can appreciate how far we’ve come. I would also add Reese to this list.

encore Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 9:17 am

I have nothing against unisex names, I actually like many of them. I just don’t agree with many people’s reasoning behind them. First of all, we are supposed to be able to share our opinions on this site. We aren’t sitting here saying we like every name to make people feel good. Secondly, while I fully appreciate feminism, and think that woman are just as powerful and capable as men, the truth is we are different. Men and women are not the same. I think we forget that it is okay for girls to be “girly”.

amcook Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:10 am

I’m not sure how I personally feel about unisex names for my kids. I feel like if it was me I wouldn’t want people assuming I was a girl or boy on paper and then being surprised to see the opposite. This applies for school, jobs, life in general.

A lot of these names I love for a boy or girl or both. My husband recently added Blake to our girls list for baby #2 and I really like it for a girl but I’m hesitant.

amcook Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:13 am

I’m not sure how I personally feel about naming my kids unisex names. While I love many of these names for a boy or a girl or both I feel like if it was my name I wouldn’t want people to look at it on paper and make an assumption about my gender and then be surprised. My husband recently added Blake for a girl to our baby#2 name list but I’m a little hesitant as like many of you who posted replies I think most people will think boy first. I thought of spelling it different to make it more feminine but I have reservations about changing spellings of names as well.

Saracita00 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:23 am

Equality that requires blurring of “stereotypical lines” is not really equality, it’s just confusion. It diminishes individuality, denies fundamental aspects of our heritage, and homogenizes the masses until they reach the least common denominator — while never facing the underlying issue.

If you’re worried about a girl named Arianna and a guy named Jonathan not having a fair chance, but naming them Merrit and Dakota solves the problem, you’ve missed the complexity of the situation.

True progress would be Arianna, Lorenzo, Mohammed, Kymberleigh, Saoirse, D’Shawn, Cohen, Merrit, Ryu, Nevaeh, and Jonathan all walking around with names that make a statement about who they are and where they come from…and all of them still stand a chance, still treating each other with dignity, and still meeting challenges and enjoying opportunity.

In my estimation, unisex naming as a thing “that frees people from confining stereotypes” amounts to little more than admittance that we’re still too small and narrow minded to comprehend or accept the things that make people different.

LexieM Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:31 am

@abelle2 and @jessica I think people are still assigning genders to some of these names because they strongly associate one gender over the other with them. I think that’s totally okay and as a berry I love hearing peoples opinions on how they read names even if I don’t agree.

While I see how all of the names listed can be unisex – when I hear names like Alex or Charlie I just can’t help thinking “and that’s short for?”. I love longer names that have short spunky and unisex nn’s. When I was little I went by Alex (totally tomboy anything girly freaked me out) but now I love that Lexie is softer and more feminine sounding.

I’d have a problem naming my child a gender neutral name (esp fn) because they don’t always translate across cultures as easily. I am bi-cultural and it’s important to me that my future children’s names work well in both cultures. Names that already raise a gender question in the US can only become more complicated overseas. But I really like the idea of gender neutral mn.

acawood Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:57 am

I’m always so surprised how regionally different things can be. I live in a city close to the US/Mexico border, and for me, Angel is totally a boys name (I’m pretty sure that every Angel I’ve ever met is male).

kassieb11 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:59 am

Alex- Unisex

Angel- Unisex (Ill admit its because of the tv show Angel that I associate this with a male more but I can see how it could be a girls name)

Avery- Unisex (Although I associate it with a boy)

Bay- Boy

Blake- Boy

Brett- Boy

Cameron- I know its used unisex but its a boy name imo

Charlie- Male name, unisex nickname

Corin- Boy

Dakota- Boy

Devon- Unisex

Dune- Boy

Dylan- Boy

Ellington- Boy

Elliot- Girl (Scrubs, Elliot Reed)

Ellis- Girl (I have a great grandma Ellis)

Emerson- Boy

Emery- Boy

Garnet- Girl

Gray/Grey- Boy

Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)- Boy

Jaden- Boy (Jade would be girl imo)

Jalen- Unisex

Landry- Boy

London- Girl

Lou- Boy

Luca- Girl (Lucas = Boy)

Marlowe- Girl

Merritt- Girl

Micah- Unisex

Nico- Boy

Parish- Boy

Parker- Boy

Payton/Peyton- Boy

Reilly/Riley- Unisex

Remy- Unisex (My female cousin is named Remy)

Rio- Boy

River- Girl (Firefly the girls name is river)

Rory- Boy

Rowan- Girl (Only know one Rowan who is a girl)

Sage- Boy

Salem- Girl

Sam- Boy name, unisex nickname

Sasha- Girl

Sawyer- Boy

Sayer- Boy

Seneca- Girl

Sky- Boy, unisex nickname

Skyler- Unisex

Storm- Boy

Story- Boy

Teagan- Boy

Tiernan- Unisex

Tenzin- Boy

Timber- Boy

True- Girl

Winslow- Boy

I understand why someone would want to use a unisex name but I would never use one personally, that moment when you meet someones baby for the first time and they are wearing say green or white or some gender neutral color and all you can say is “Awww and the name?” and your friend says Devon or Kelly or Taylor or Morgan and then your just not sure because you don’t want to offend the person, do you say something or just wait till they mention it?

Plus associations also come into play, i may have met 10 girls name Sharron but a friend of mine could only know guys named Sharron so we end up forever associating a known unisex name with one gender regardless.

mkenison Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 11:01 am

I personally love unisex names. I understand that they aren’t everyones style, but what I will never understand is people’s open hostility for them. The argument of “boys names are boys names and girl names are girl names” holds zero weight with me. The gender of a name seems to shift depending on culture, personal association and time period. Who exactly has the authority to claim a names gender?

Dearest Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 11:08 am

I just have to mention that there are unisex names in use in Norway, and while it’s recommended that names have gender identity, it’s not required. Iben is the perfect example. It’s really a boys name, but most people have only heard of it due to female childrens book author Iben Sandemose so they’re using it for their daughters. Runi is also a unisex Norse name, Audun is mostly in use for boys, but it is a legit Norse girls name as well, and there are women in Norway named Audun. Eli is a Nordic form of Helena in wide use, but there are still men named Eli. We have Jo’s and Chris’s of both sexes. Others are Magni, Mika, Luca, Nikita, Ola, Rudi and Kim.

Also, I really like the idea of gender neutral names, but that’s not really the trend, is it? The trend is giving masculine sounding boys names to girls and giving boys feminine sounding names (but God forbid an actual girls name!). There are some beautiful unisex options out there, Runi, Magni, Taran, Noor, Valentine, Almas, Artemis, Callisto, the list goes on. I don’t see anyone using those.
Not to mention all the wonderful word names like Bay and Sage, Garnet, Story and Dune. I actually made a separate list for word names and now that the gender isn’t specified I don’t see the problem with using Aster for a boy or Loyal for a girl.

Flick Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 11:24 am

I hate them because MOST of them are just masculine names used for females and once they are used for a female, they are no longer accepted on boys. I do not like the double standard at all and I don’t like the “style” itself, either – so overdone.

If ALL names were “unisex” and actually used on both genders, I wouldn’t have an issue, but that’s not how it is. It’s male names being used for females, never to be used on males again and never the opposite way around. I fail to see how we are making any progress with this? How this “blurs gender lines”?

blueberry1215 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 12:35 pm

These are just my thoughts on the names, I’m not trying to force genders on them! 🙂

Alex- Unisex, I prefer the spelling Alix for girls, though.

Angel- I think this is a truly unisex name. Although it always surprises me on a man, I’ve heard it more often as a boy’s name.

Avery- Unisex, but I find it more fitting on a girl.

Bay- Female. I had a friend named Baylor, and she went by Bay.

Blake- Male, definitely. I

Brett- Male. How awful Brett would be for a girl!

Cameron- Female. I’ve met just one girl with this name, and it surprised me. She spelled it Kameron, though. I don’t like her spelling, but Cameron for a girl is growing on me.

Charlie- I’ve known three Charlies. One was a boy, the other a girl (born Jessica, God knows where the nickname came from), and the third a dog. Honestly, I think it’s best for a dog.

Corin- Male.

Dakota- Female. Dakota Fanning is all I can think of when I hear this name!

Devon- Male.

Dune- Female.

Dylan- Male. I really don’t like it for a girl. Dylan just doesn’t have the same appeal as Ryan does for a girl.

Ellington- Unisex! I haven’t ever met an Ellington before, but it feels like a true mix of male and female, and could go either way. I suppose I would rather have it on a girl, because then you get the nickname Elle.

Elliot- Male! I would hate to hear Elliot on a girl, I like it too much for a boy.

Ellis- Female

Emerson- Male

Emery- Unisex. I honestly don’t like the name, so I have no preference.

Garnet- Female! Garnet is my sister’s birthstone.

Gray/Grey- Male, it’s too harsh for a girl.

Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)- Male! Gracyn would be the female spelling. But at that point, why not just go with Grace?

Jaden- Male, awful on a girl.

Jalen- Jalen? I’ve never even heard of it before. Sounds like jail.

Landry- Male, but all I can think of is laundry.

London- Male.

Lou- Unisex.

Luca- Male.

Marlowe- Unisex. I think it fits a girl better, though.

Merritt- Male. The female version would be Mirit, I think.

Micah- Female. It’s just too sparkly for a boy!

Nico- Male.

Parish- Unisex. It could go either way, really.

Parker- Unisex. I like it more on a girl.

Payton/Peyton- Unisex. It’s much more girly than it used to be, though.

Reilly/Riley- Unisex. Reilly is more masculine, and Riley more feminine.

Remy- Unisex. I like it for both genders, but if I see it on paper I think girl.

Rio- Male.

River- Female.

Rory- MALE! I’m really sad that this name is becoming unisex, the meaning is ‘red king’.

Rowan- Female. I wouldn’t be able to take a boy Rowan seriously.

Sage- Female. Much too girly for a boy.

Salem- Female. I really dislike the name in general, but on a boy it’s just five times worse.

Sam- Truly unisex.

Sasha- Unisex. Though I think Sascha is the male spelling.

Sawyer- Male! Why would you want to name your baby girl Sawyer? What are you going to call her? Saw?

Sayer- Male.

Seneca- Male. Seneca Crane!

Sky- Female.

Skyler- Unisex. Skylar is more feminine, though.

Storm- Female.

Story- Unisex, though I prefer it for a girl.

Teagan- Unisex, but I think it’s better for a boy.

Tiernan- Unisex. I like it more for a girl.

Tenzin- Male!

Timber- Male

True- Female. What boy wants to be named True?

Winslow- Unisex, but I like it more for a girl.

maple_blythe Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I’m not sure I buy your argument that ‘old notions of masculine characteristics being superior to feminine’ has been transcended, and I think the evidence is in the names listed here.

A lot of these seem like masculine names that are used on both sexes at the moment, rather than genuinely unisex names. The effect of this one-way movement is to more firmly entrench the stereotype of masculinity=strength and femininity=feeble.

The *sound* of some names might be truly unisex, but American parents anyways seem to gender the written version- Camryn and Kamryn both rank higher than Cameron on the girls’ side, as an example. If people were actually motivated by a desire to transcend stereotypes, there would be fewer female Camryns, Ryleighs, and Addisyns, and more male Aubreys, Bryns, and Madisons.

There’s more evidence in your statement about Everett and Emmett. If there were truly a ‘new attitude that girls can lead’, then the newly-stylish-among-girls’ first names wouldn’t need any adulteration (masculinization) to be used on the boys: Sloan, Bryn, and Aubrey are obvious ones (but also: Shiloh, Blair, Loren, Kendall, Evelyn, Mackenzie). But they’re nowhere to be seen on the boys’ side, even where they neatly fit the stylish male sounds. Finn, but not Bryn? Milo, but not Shiloh? Nolan, but not Loren? I’d argue that it’s because in North American anyways for this generation, Bryn, Shiloh, and Lauren were stylish for girls first, and therefore haven’t crossed the gender divide in the way that stylish-for-boys first Reese, Kendall, and Elliot have.

I think there are a few names in the English naming lexicon that do truly transcend gender (but are again usually gendered on paper)- Artemi(/a)s, Robin, and Franci(/e)s are the ones that most readily come to mind. Laurence, Dominique, and Frederique are all unisex, too, but not particularly English. Few are stylish according to current fashions.

That said, there are a few unisex names curiously absent from your list– what about Quinn, Phoenix, and Lyric? All three make the top 1000 for both genders are much more evenly divided than El(l)iot(t)!

mika13 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 2:26 pm

My first son will be named Shannon. An originally male name now considered female. My sister’s name is Reese. She’s commonly guessed to be a boy despite Reese Witherspoon. I consider Reese to be a female spelling, Reece and Rhys to be male.

Jennai Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 2:31 pm

To me the only real unisex names are nicknames such as Lou, Charlie and Alex or word names such as River, Sky or Storm.

Poppy528 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Is it safe to clarify that Angel (pr. Ohn-hel) is a very common male name among Spanish speakers while Angel (pr. Ayn-jel by English speakers) is used for girls? This does not seem that hard.

I prefer mannish (“unisex”) first names with girly nicknames as opposed to the other way around. Miller going by Millie vs. Charlotte going by Charlie. People descriminate when they see a name at the top of a resume … and no one puts nicknames on a resume.

auroradawn Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I strongly second everything said by Saracita00. She put it very well. “Equality that requires blurring of ‘stereotypical lines’ is not really equality, it’s just confusion.” Exactly so.

I think I understand the mindset of those who wish for total freedom to define themselves and who view “gender-free” names as a step in that direction, but their view is based either on the incorrect assumption that gender is an accident of nature, or on the incorrect assumption that men and women ought to embrace the opportunity to “swap roles.” Encore is correct that we forget it’s okay for girls to be girly. And it’s more than okay, it’s right. Men and women are different, and they’re different for a reason. The differences of opinion we have on these issues reflect the reason that we disagree on the subject of “gender-free” names.

That said, I have no problem with many names, especially word and nature names, that can be used with equal ease for either gender. If we are secure in our view on gender identity, the way we choose names to reflect it is a matter of personal taste.

SheFliesWithHerOwnWings Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I have a very strong opinion on so called unisex names. What people seem to forget is that names come from somewhere and have meaning and history behind them that gives them their gender. I also think when taking a name such as Rowan and using it on a female is quite unfair to the Gaelic/Irish origins of the name because people over here would in the UK would be baffled to hear of a female Rowan. It’s a shame that their is too much of this “I will name my child what I want” opinion because sometimes culture, history should be taken into account and respect shown for names of other cultures.

Most of these names are purely masculine in my eyes, or just nicknames which could work for a boy or girl.

I think word names like Sage, Timber, True, Storm, Story, Sky, Parish, Garnet, Grey, River and Bay or places names like Dakota, Devon, London

Alex, Charlie, Lou and Sam are all nicknames that can work for a boy or girl but shouldn’t be used as stand alone names IMO.

Angel and Sasha can be used for boys or girl and often are depending on country or place you live, culture etc.

Avery, Blake, Brett, Cameron, Corin, Dune, Dylan, Ellington, Elliot, Ellis, Emerson, Emery, Grayson/Greyson, Jaden, Jalen, Landry, Luca, Marlowe, Merritt, Micah, Nico, Parker, Payton/Peyton, Reilly/Riley, Remy, Rio, Rory, Rowan, Sawyer, Skyler, Tiernan and Winslow are all strictly boy’ names to me and I cannot understand why anyone would find Luca, Rio, Elliot or Dylan girly or appropriate for a girl.

Sayer, Salem, Seneca, Tenzin are all just odd.

Teagan is one I can see on a girl more so than a boy.

SugarPlumFairy Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Oh, please. Where are all the American boys named Grace, Eliza and May? Or Ashley and Madison, for that matter?

There’s nothing “progressive” or “feminist” regarding these unisex names simply because the majority are masculine names used on girls. The mentality is clear: it’s not socially acceptable for a boy to have a purely “girls name”. People can use the names they like, but just don’t pretend they’re champions of gender equality while they are perpetuating it.

The only legitimate feminine English names are nature / place names and some old English names like Hilary, Ellery, Florence, Bennett, and Christian (yes), which were introduced to the languages as such. Or “borrowed” French names like Claude and Dominique.

MeleriHaf Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:36 pm

This subject has always interested me, because my dad’s first name, Lindsey, was a boy’s name when he was born, a unisex name for a short while after that, and is now strictly a girl’s name. I’m sure when he was born, people would have been as shocked to meet a girl named Lindsey as some people would be to meet a girl named Ellis today. Personally, Ellis is a girl’s name to me, because the only Ellis I know is a girl. I think name gender identity is all a matter of personal life experience.

And I do love Brett on a girl, if only because of Hemingway’s fantastic character Lady Brett Ashley from “The Sun Also Rises”.

skizzo Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Pam, people looked gobsmacked when you went to the UK with your daughter Rory because it IS a masculine name there, and most names in the UK stay in their respective genders.

Also since when is Luca unisex? Totally masculine. This is what annoys me the most, importing names from other countries and not respecting its gender.

skizzo Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I also agree with the comment that said “where are the males named Grace or Elizabeth”. Unless these so called unisex names are originally feminine and become masculine, then we are far from a gender-free ideal.

skizzo Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 6:59 pm

@blueberry125: I find it funny that you talk about Rory’s origins and how its male and has a male meaning, and then you talk about Rowan and say you wouldn’t be able to take a male Rowan seriously, I mean wth? At least be consistent.

sabrinafair Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 8:13 pm

These are on my list:

Avery – boy
Bay – boy
Devon – girl
Dune – either
Dylan – girl
Elliott- either
Emerson – boy
Gray – girl
Grayson -girl as a first name, middle for a boy
London – either prefer boy
Marlowe / Marlow – boy
Parrish – girl
River – either
Rowan – girl
Sage – boy
Salem – girl
Sawyer – either
Sky – boy
Schuyler – either prefer boy
Storm – either
Story boy
True – boy

Flick Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 8:13 pm

See, Rowan is also a nature-name, like Linden, so I’m kind of torn on those. Rowan tree and Linden tree…..the first time I heard Rowan was in reference to the tree.

CKA Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Personally I can’t wait for the day when a boy/guy can have a name that is also used by girls and won’t have to face the social stigma of having a “girl’s name” like it’s something they should be ashamed of.

Personally I don’t blame the parents of girls for using so-called ‘boy’ names for their girls. What I think is sad, is the almost irrational paranoia of the parents of boys who run away from those names somehow fearing it will weaken their boy.

berry2 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Alex- unisex

Angel- unisex, but only because I know a male Angel

Avery- girl

Bay- girl

Blake- boy

Brett- boy

Cameron- would assume boy, but unisex

Charlie- unisex nickname but would assume Charles/Charlotte

Corin- boy

Dakota- unisex

Devon- unisex

Dune- boy

Dylan- unisex but probably because I know both male and female Dylans

Ellington- boy

Elliot- boy

Ellis- boy

Emerson- girl

Emery- girl

Garnet- girl

Gray/Grey- boy

Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)- boy

Jaden- unisex, but would assume boy

Jalen- unisex

Landry- boy

London- girl

Lou- boy

Luca- boy

Marlowe- unisex

Merritt- boy

Micah- boy

Nico- boy

Parish- neither lol

Parker- unisex

Payton/Peyton- unisex

Reilly/Riley- unisex

Remy- unisex

Rio- boy

River- unisex, would assume boy

Rory- unisex

Rowan- unisex but would assume boy

Sage- girl

Salem- boy

Sam- unisex

Sasha- girl

Sawyer- unisex

Sayer- boy

Seneca- unisex

Sky- unisex, would assume girl

Skyler- unisex, would assume girl

Storm- girl

Story- girl

Teagan- girl

Tiernan- unisex

Tenzin- boy

Timber- unisex

True- girl

Winslow- unisex

amberdaydream Says:

August 24th, 2012 at 6:03 am

Personally I only put a unisex name on my list if I really like it on both genders: Winslow, Connolly, Emery and Sawyer.

I think some are misinterpreting the intent of this article. It’s NOT, “Hey everyone, here’s a list of names the girls can steal under the guise of feminism!” It’s supposed to be, “Hey, everyone, here’s a list of names that are examples of how unisex names can be used for both genders and eradicate stereotypes.” It’s not a matter of denying your identity as a boy or a girl at all. It’s showing a new wave of things that genders can share. At one point, we started to share the right to vote. At another, we started to share the concept of wearing trousers, making music, writing books, roles and expectations, etc. Now we completely share all these things, with few associated stereotypes. And now we are sharing names. It’s not a bad thing!

People always get more annoyed about unisex names being used on girls, especially if it was originally used for boys. I think unisex names on girls (or even boy’s names on girls) should be used for style or sentiment. It’s only damaging to feminism if people claim it’s so they can “get ahead in the business world”. Otherwise, nobody cries out about girls wearing jeans tailored for a boy, and the girl in question isn’t trying to get taken seriously at work. It’s just her stylistic preference.

I think that fact that some (not all) people strike a boy name off their list when it gets too popular for girls is sexist in a way. They might not mean it, but there’s this certain implication: “Well, why should my son share a name with a girl? The thought that he could, for one second, be thought to be feminine is horrific! His life would be ruined forever!”
But why can’t a boy share a name with a girl? Lol, is there something wrong with us girls? Plenty of parents are aware their little boy Max shares a name with a dog, that Bentley shares a name with a car, that Ryker/Riker shares a name with a PRISON, but having their son share a name with a girl seems to be out of the question for some people. Boys called Aubrey are not going to transform into a girl or suffer psychological damage of too much frilliness. If he corrects someone on his gender, they’re not going to argue, and if they are, they’re not worth his time. Same goes for a girl called Greyson (who, by the way, isn’t going to go into a coma over some kind of name-induced testosterone overload.)

Wow, that’s long, so I hope I didn’t offend anyone in all that. Amber, over and out. 🙂

AmandaRhiannon Says:

August 24th, 2012 at 8:52 am

I would include Jordan. I think that it can be a great name for either gender.

pam Says:

August 24th, 2012 at 9:01 am

Too many thoughtful comments here to respond to in detail. But want to say again how much I appreciate hearing all sides of this provocative discussion.

Dearest, thanks for the clarification on Norway naming laws and practices. And Skizzo, I do realize that in the UK (and by tradition) Rory is a male name. Not sure how it became unisex in the US — Rory Kennedy, the daughter born after RFK was assassinated in the 1960s, certainly cemented if not set that trend. Americans for a host of reasons feel free to regender names from other cultures. Luca is a case in point. Yes, this is probably due to a combination of ignorance and imperialistic hubris, and yet, it certainly makes the world of baby names more interesting.

tikicatt Says:

August 24th, 2012 at 10:50 am

One of the upshots I have noticed in the unisex name world is that it seems names now need to be identified as male or female in the workplace. For instance where I work Lane (female) and Layne (male) are id’d as such in email traffic. Would have thought Layne would be the female? Nope, 35+ year old man. (His boys are Sawyer and Brecken). There are older men here named Tracy and Shannon, and women named Tracey and Shannon. But everyone agrees it is easier with the Erin and Aaron’s at least you can tell which is which. I spoke with a woman named Wesley the other day. Had emailed for a long time and always laughed at the Mrs. Wesley Lastname on her signature. She said mostly she does it because people move really fast these days in biz and constant communication via email means they often forget she is a woman. So there you go unisexers – you have achieved what you wanted, they have forgotten you are a woman when named male. When you get older you will be Dakota (m) and Cameron (f). Instead of Susan A. and Susan B.

templekat Says:

August 24th, 2012 at 9:32 pm

@amberdaydream…Well said. People are going to scream ‘sexist’ no matter what. Suggesting a female should look, act, or be named something feminine or a male, masculine, is sexist in itself, isn’t it?

And so many names started out as surnames – who decided they should be male? Avery, as an example? Not all people who give their girls unisex or masculine names are trying to make some statement about gender identity or equality. I may not like all the names people give their children, but if there is real feeling behind the name, more power to them.

Also, the English language is a mixture of words from so many cultures and languages – Gender flipping on words and names is going to happen. Spanish, for example, has feminine and masculine words, hence ‘la/las’ and ‘el/los’. In Spanish, Angel is masculine. So many of us are already saying how it’s feminine. What makes it so? Do we really have to go back to word origin to make these determinations so people feel comfortable using these names? Why don’t all those people who have boys and are screaming injustice start giving their sons ‘girl’ names to get the ball rolling? Where does it start? Where does it end?

linelei Says:

August 26th, 2012 at 10:12 am

I really appreciate Amber’s comments; unisex names are not for me about reaching some androgynous ideal in which no one HAS a gender; it is more about the freedom to be who you are without parents forcing children into stereotyped gender roles. Your child may be super “masculine” or “feminine”, but if their names are limiting and they do not fit the stereotypes, it limits their individual expression. Equality is not the same as homogeneity.

That being said, I think others here also make good points that this is more of a surface change right now, and may not reflect true changes in parents’ attitudes and ways of parenting. The fear of naming boys something “girly” is a great example of how far we still have to go.

On a personal level, I prefer soft, unisex-tupe names for boys, while I tend to like frillier girl names. Perhaps this is because I don’t want to fall into the trap of giving my girl a more “boyish” name to give her an edge up in this still male-dominated world. I mean this personally; I have great respect for unisex names on either gender and don’t automatically assume this is the intention when a girl haa such a name.

Scrambledmegs Says:

August 26th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

@amberdaydream really hit the nail on the head when saying “I think that fact that some (not all) people strike a boy name off their list when it gets too popular for girls is sexist in a way.” In fact, everything they mentioned eloquently summarized a lot of my beliefs and opinions. I also agree with @CKA’s statement “What I think is sad, is the almost irrational paranoia of the parents of boys who run away from those names somehow fearing it will weaken their boy.” I wouldn’t call any of this feminism and I don’t think women who name their daughters Addison and Blake are doing it to be feminists. Maybe they like the sound of the name, maybe their husband’s name is Adam, or maybe their maiden name is Blake. There are a lot of terrible names out there, but those two are wonderful. Who am I to think someone named their own child inappropriately? I can have an opinion, but I would never be so rude as to share that with the person. There’s nothing constructive in that opinion.

@SugarPlumFairy, one particular American “boy” I can point to named Madison is the San Francisco Giants starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner. A few years and a World Series win later, I’m pretty sure no one criticizes him for sharing his name with thousands of little girls.

Touching on what @amcook said, “I feel like if it was me I wouldn’t want people assuming I was a girl or boy on paper and then being surprised to see the opposite. This applies for school, jobs, life in general.” I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again, assumptions shouldn’t be made. We’re taught that making assumptions is stupid and wrong, why would it be any different in separating based on sex? “Because that’s the way it’s always been” is a terrible reason to do anything. I believe it’s about time we change. I have a lot of friends in the LGBT community and know that a person’s sex is not always the same as their gender. To me, sex and gender shouldn’t be identifiers. I don’t think it matters. It isn’t about careers or society, it’s about people. (If you haven’t seen it, journalist Lisa Ling has a show, called Our America with Lisa Ling, which has a wonderful episode called Transgender Lives. But then again, even these people change their names to fit a societal gender stereotype.) A few masculine lesbians I work with have come up with clever nicknames to cover up their overtly feminine monikers, which simply don’t suit. They’re also often confused for being male because of the way they dress and act. I find it rude that they should have to qualify and limit by definition how they choose to dress and act. I also had an extremely masculine college professor named Lauren who I could’ve sworn was a man for the first few weeks of class. I never asked, but often wondered if that happened to her often or if I only felt that way because I’ve known males named Lauren. Nothing in life is black and white, and I believe that gender is not so clearly defined. So why define it with a name? It feels so limited to me. In a sea of so many spectacular name options, why hold ourselves back from finding the most perfect moniker for us and our progeny?

I’m extremely progressive, so I can acknowledge that my opinions (and that of people I know) don’t reflect what the statistics show. I’m in no way trying to banish every Liliana or Isabella from being their feminine, wonderful selves. I’m sure several drag queens and trans women will adopt frilly names such as these because they were named Steven and Matthew. We shouldn’t have to change our names to fit how we feel or are perceived. We should be accepted regardless. We put a lot of pressure on names as definitions of people, but in my opinion the people will define how the name is perceived.

Aiveen989 Says:

September 9th, 2012 at 11:36 am

Alex-Unisex but is at the top of my girls list right now.

Angel-Unisex but i’ve only ever heard of a boy angel.

Avery-Unisex, I love both Avery for a boy and girl.

Bay- Girl, I would say.

Blake- Boy.

Brett- Boy.

Cameron- Unisex, but I think its quite masculine.

Charlie- Boy, although Charlie can be cute for girls too.

Corin- Boy.

Dakota- Girl, mainly because of Dakota Fanning.

Devon- Boy.

Dune- Boy.

Dylan- Unisex. I prefare Dylan for a girl because I think Dylan for a boy is too common.

Ellington- First I’ve heard this name, but I’d say boy probably.

Elliot- My number One boys name,

Ellis- boy.

Emerson- Boy.

Emery- never heard this one either, probably boy.

Garnet- boy.

Gray/Grey- boy.

Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)- boy.

Jaden- boy.

Jalen- boy.

Landry- boy.

London- girl.

Lou- Unisex. I think it sounds more like a nickname for Louise(girl) and Louis/Lewis(boy)

Luca- boy.

Marlowe- not too sure.

Merritt- boy.

Micah- boy.

Nico- boy.

Parish- boy

Parker- boy, beacuse of desperate housewives.

Payton/Peyton- girl, because of dance moms.

Reilly/Riley- Unisex

Remy- boy.

Rio- boy.

River- boy.

Rory- boy.

Rowan- boy.

Sage- girl.

Salem- boy (sabrina the teenage witch)

Sam- Unisex

Sasha- Girl.

Sawyer- boy.

Sayer- boy.

Seneca- girl.

Sky- Girl.

Skyler- Girl.

Storm- boy.

Story- boy.

Teagan- girl.

Tiernan- boy.

Tenzin- boy.

Timber- boy.



Just my opinion:D

PenPencilCrayon Says:

September 10th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

The idea that any name is gender specific is only an indication of a person’s inability for change and the plan to label a child without considering the personality. The world changes and so does everything in it. Name your child whatever your heart desires regardless of traditions or “respect” for a culture or country. In the end, they’re all just verbal sounds we created.

Jenna5128 Says:

October 15th, 2012 at 12:13 pm

First of all I love the idea of unisex names. My second love is names that surprise people. I also dislike my given name but respect the amount of love and care my mother took in selecting it for me and would therefore never change it. –so those are the biases I come to the conversation with.

I think for others to wholesale reject a name someone has chosen as being “a girl’s name” or “a boy’s name” is often short sighted, because name usage changes over time. It’s fluid. Does it disrupt our enjoyment of “Gone with the Wind” to see Scarlett pining for her man Ashley? Did people find “The Great Gatsby” hard to follow because Jordan Baker was a woman?

Or the people here who consider “Seneca” a girl’s name –um, what about the Roman stoic philosopher who tutored Nero? He was a male. And that was his surname, so that opens a whole other kettle of fish.

Besides all that –it’s usually the prospective parents who have done the most research about their beloved name. It’s just silly to say all names hold a gender. Yes, Elizabeth will probably always be a woman, but history shows names aren’t ascribed permanent gender.

TaylorBlueSkye Says:

October 19th, 2012 at 11:40 am

I love unisex names because I can picture them on any personality. I can easily see a very girly, pretty Blake (see Blake Lively), her name doesn’t take away her femininity. But it’s hard for me to picture a boyish (doesn’t like to wear girls clothes, prefers soccer over ballet) Isabella.

Elliveve Says:

January 15th, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Alex- Boy

Angel- Girl

Avery- Girl

Bay- Girl

Blake- Boy

Brett- Boy

Cameron- Boy

Charlie- Boy

Corin- Girl

Dakota- Girl

Devon- Boy

Dune- Boy

Dylan- Boy

Ellington- Boy

Elliot- Boy

Ellis- Girl

Emerson- Boy

Emery- Girl

Garnet- Girl

Gray/Grey- Boy

Grayson/Greyson (but not Gracyn)- Boy

Jaden- Boy

Jalen- Girl

Landry- Dirty clothing

London- Girl

Lou- Boy

Luca- Boy

Marlowe- Girl

Merritt- Boy

Micah- Boy

Nico- Boy

Parish- Boy

Parker- Boy

Payton/Peyton- Girl

Reilly/Riley- Boy

Remy- Girl

Rio- Boy

River- Boy

Rory- Boy

Rowan- Boy

Sage- Girl

Salem- Boy

Sam- Boy

Sasha- Girl


Sayer- Boy

Seneca- Girl

Sky- Girl

Skyler- Girl

Storm- Girl

Story- Girl

Teagan- Girl

Tiernan- Boy

Tenzin- Boy

Timber- Boy

True- Boy

Winslow- Boy

mckaylalove Says:

March 31st, 2013 at 5:06 am

Maybe it’s because I’m young and as a general rule young people are more open minded and less conventional, but I think all the names on the list could be unisex and I think it’s cool when a person has a unisex name. I actually love Elliot, Rory, Parker, Charlie (I know several little girls named Charlie) and Avery for girls and Dakota, Marlowe, Corin and Ellis for boys in particular.
But yeah, I think they all work.

betasinlove Says:

April 12th, 2013 at 5:56 pm

All of these names look nicely unisex to me. London, especially, is a name I’ve encountered very often on both both boys and girls and no one has ever batted an eyelash. I think everyone seems to forget that a name is never going to perfectly describe your child. You know almost nothing about what your child will be like, personality or even looks-wise while you’re expecting and even for a good while after birth. You also don’t know whow they’ll feel about femininity or masculinity, nor whether they will identify with the gender everyone plops on them at birth. Unisex names give children more choice and options as they grow up and into their personalities. It’s perfectly possible for a little girl named Parker or Dylan to love painting her nails, doing ballet, or baking cookies, and those are all wonderful things for someone to do…but they’re not tied to gender, the same way these names aren’t.

RainstreamofSpiritClan Says:

June 29th, 2017 at 3:18 am

These are the names from your list that I wouldn’t lean toward one gender or the other at all (There are others that I think are fine on either, but I still lean toward one or the other in the gender I would assume if I saw it written and some that I see as totally gender-specific):

Alex (Not sure whether to put this one or not. I might see it as more boy. And I wouldn’t see it as a full name for a girl, just a nickname.)

Angel – Not sure if I really don’t lean on this one either. Originally I would have thought all girl, but now thanks to meeting people I maybe lean toward boy.













Sam – Only as a nickname for a girl.




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