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Surnames That Make Great Unisex Baby Names

Surnames That Make Great Unisex Baby Names

Surnames used as unisex baby names offer fresh, modern-sounding options that aren’t too tied to one gender.

Last names as first names are always in fashion. Some lean strongly to one gender, as we can see in the USA’s list of popular names: Harper and Avery are mostly given to girls, while Mason and Jackson are far more popular for boys.

But many surnames are somewhere in between, used almost equally for girls and boys. Over time, the gender balance can fluctuate, and some names become more masculine while others turn feminine. But the names we’re looking at here are all in the truly gender-neutral zone for now, with no wider than a 35-65 split between the sexes.

We took all the gender-neutral names in the 2021 US baby name statistics that fit this ratio, picked out those that could be surnames, and now we’re rounding them up for you.

The most popular unisex surname is Parker, which ranks at Number 93 (and holding steady) for boys, and 115 (and rising) for girls — meaning that it is becoming more gender-balanced each year. It is followed by Blake (ranking at Number 199 for girls, 205 for boys), then Emerson (Number 167 for girls, 279 for boys).

The most gender-neutral last names of all include Campbell, which in 2021 was given to 210 girls and 214 boys; and the rare-but-stylish Sadler, used for 5 babies of each gender.

Let's look at more popular unisex surname names.

Popular Unisex Last Names

These names are all in the US Top 1000 baby names for at least one gender, and sometimes both.

Celebrity Surnames

Many of today's popular surnames are inspired by icons from music, sport, movies and more. Here are some that parents are giving to both daughters and sons.

Nature and Word Last Names

Some unisex surnames come from — or sound like — words in English and other languages, especially nature words and virtues. They're cool in themselves and could add an extra level of meaning, for example if Ashe is a family surname and you also have a beautiful ash tree outside your house.

Surnames From Place Names

Names ending in -ton, -ley and -by — common English place name endings, which became surnames — are seriously hot now. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a real place name or surname; it just has to sound right. If it has a cool nickname option, like Callie for Callaway or Lex for Lexington, that’s a bonus. Below are the most unisex options in this style.

Unisex Occupation Names

Many of the most popular occupation names are used for both sexes — like Parker and Taylor — but most lean more male or female. Here are some rare, stylish options, from English and other languages, that are used almost equally for both.

Irish and Scottish Last Names

Surnames from Ireland and Scotland are a category of their own! They're popular options for a couple of reasons: the on-trend sounds like "Mac" and "Quin", and the fact that many parents have Scottish or Irish heritage they'd consider celebrating in a name. Here are some cool unisex options.

Respelled Surnames

These are for parents who like the unisex surname style, but change the spelling to make it look more feminine. Or more distinctive. Or for another reason, like honoring Grandpa Lee in the spelling of Weslee. It doesn't matter whether they're actually anyone's last name, as long as they sound like they could be. Think of them as surname-style with a twist.

Surnames from First Names

This category takes us full circle. First, in medieval times, there was someone called Emery. His son took the surname Emerson, and it stuck as a family name. And now we’re giving kids Emerson as a first name. Are you keeping up? Here are some more gender neutral first-names-turned-last-names-turned-first-names-again!

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from names peaking right now to feminist baby names, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. She has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and recently completed an MA dissertation researching names in multilingual families. She lives in England with her husband and son. You can reach her at clare@nameberry.com