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Unisex Surnames Have Universal Style

November 1, 2020 Clare Green
unisex surnames

Unisex surnames offer fresh, modern-sounding baby name options that aren’t too tied to one gender.

Surname names are always in fashion. Some lean strongly to one gender, as we can see even in the USA’s Top 10: Harper is predominantly given to girls, while Mason is far more popular for boys.

But many surnames are somewhere in between, given to both girls and boys. Over time, the gender balance can fluctuate, with some names leaning more masculine and others turning feminine. But for now, the names we’re looking at here are all in the truly gender-neutral zone, with no wider than a 35-65 split between girls and boys (or boys and girls.

We took all the gender-neutral names in the 2019 US baby name statistics that fit this ratio, and picked out the ones that could be surnames, and now we’re rounding them up for you.

The most popular unisex surname is Blake, which ranks at number 183 (and falling) for boys, and 222 (and rising) for girls. Let’s look at some more!

The numbers in brackets are the ratio of girls to boys with the name in 2019. For example, “Bellamy (48:52)” means that 48% of children named Bellamy were girls, and 52% were boys — making it one of the most gender-balanced names.

Hero and celebrity surnames

When you hear a name and you instantly think of a famous bearer? Those are the names we’re talking about here. Most of them are heroes’ last names, but some — like Channing and Chandler — reached fame through people who wore them as first names. These are the most evenly split between girls and boys.

Armani (42:58)
Austen (40:60)
Bowie (41:59)
Chandler (37:63)
Channing (37:63)
Kahlo (47:53)
Kelce (50:50)
Larkin (58:42)
Loren (63:37)
Milian (55:45)
Tatum (60:40)
Teigen (49:51)

Nature and word surnames

Most of these unisex names are both surnames and vocabulary words — so if one of your family tree it could be doubly meaningful. Some names here are from nature word roots, like Lam (meaning “forest” in Cantonese) and Reiss (from a Germanic origin meaning “branch”).

Arbor (64:36)
Ashe (37:63)
Copper (43:57)
East (50:50)
Gale (46:54)
Golden (46:54)
Hollis (41:59)
Kindred (40:60)
Laine (41:59)
Lake (41:59)
Lam (36:64)
Linden (44:56)
Merit (57:43)
North (63:37)
Peace (60:40)
Perry (43:57)
Power (36:64)
Reiss (50:50)
Southern (47:53)
Wisdom (46:54)

Place name surnames

Anything ending in -ton, -ley or -by (which are common English place name endings) is hot property at the moment. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a real place name; it just has to sound right. There’s nowhere on the map called Knoxley, yet parents use this name because it sounds like it would be a pretty cool place — and if feels like a more formal name for the nickname Knox. Here are the most unisex examples of this style.

Arlington (57:43)
Ashby (37:63)
Baxley (43:57)
Brighton (53:47)
Britain (50:50)
Callaway (53:47)
Charleston (56:44)
Crosley (58:42)
Halston (56:44)
Hanley (55:45)
Harlem (35:65)
Hayden (36:64)
Huntley (53:47)
Kelby (50:50)
Kirby (45:55)
Knightly (44:56)
Knoxley (46:54)
Lexington (48: 52)
Livingston (44:56)
Oakley (57:43)
Quincey (44:56)
Raleigh (62:38)
Ramsey (43:57)
Remmington (45:55)
Ridley (59:41)
Sidney (50:50)
Sinclair 63:37)
Sutton (64:36)
Wrigley (44:56)

Occupational surnames

Many of the occupation names that are in fashion are used for both sexes, but surprisingly few have an even gender balance. Even Parker doesn’t quite make it onto this list, with a girl:boy ratio of 34:66. These are the ones that do:

Kaylor (54:46)
Kemper (38:62)
Kinsler (40:60)
Schuyler (48:52)
Skyler (56:44)

Surnames from first names

This category takes us full circle. First, back in the middle ages, there was someone called Reynold. His children took the surname Reynolds, meaning he was their father, and it stuck as a family name. Now we’re giving kids Reynolds as a first name, inspired by the surname.

Are you keeping up? Here are the most evenly-gendered first names-from surnames-from first names.

Emerson (58:42)
Laikin (55:45)
Landry (55:45)
Larsen (50:50)
Payson (48:52)
Rawlings (46:54)
Reynolds (48:52)
Rollins (38:62)
Sayer (38:62)

Scottish and Irish surnames

Unisex surnames from Scotland and Ireland get a category of their own, because there are so many of them! They appear in many Americans’ family trees and some have popular sound like a strong “K”, so it’s no surprise they win so many parents’ hearts.

Adair (47:53)
Campbell (57:43)
Casey (35:65)
Conley (41:59)
Connelly (64:36)
Devine (54:46)
Grier (58:42)
Kelley (56:44)
Kiernan (50:50)
Mackie (54:46)
Mackinley (58:42)
Malone (54:46)
Mclaren (38:62)
Merrill (55:45)
Murphy (49:51)
Reilly (53:47)
Shea (63:37)
Tully (45:55)

Respelled surnames

So you like surname names. You want a baby name in that style… but you change the spelling to make it more feminine. Or more distinctive. Or simpler to spell. Or to honor your grandma whose name begins with K, or your brother Lee.

You’re looking for names like these: unisex options that aren’t actually anyone’s family names, but are surname-style with a twist.

Ashtyn (61:39)
Avory (59:41)
Bentli (54:46)
Bradlee (40:60)
Cortney (53:47)
Eastyn (50:50)
Franklyn (36:64)
Hendryx (38:62)
Hudsyn (51:49)
Huntlee (55:45)
Jamesyn (47:53)
Jordin (56:44)
Karcyn (43:57)
Kasey (64:36)
Klark (47:53)
Kodie (60:40)
Lawsyn (56:44)
Lennix (56:44)
Maddyx (64:36)
Marlo (60:40)
Masyn (38:62)
Paxtyn (48:52)
Prestyn (40:60)
Quin (42:58)
Santanna (40:60)
Tylar (62:38)
Wylee (52:48)

About the author

Clare Green

Clare Green writes Nameberry's weekly round-up of the latest baby name news, including celebrity announcements, unusual naming stories, and new statistics from around the world . Clare, who has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, lives in England, where she has worked in libraries and studies linguistics. You can follow her personally on Instagram and Twitter.

View all of Clare Green's articles

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