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Gender-Neutral Baby Names

Gender-Neutral Baby Names
Gender neutral baby names and unisex baby names are similar, but not exactly the same. We think of gender-neutral names as names that are truly free of a specific gender identity, while unisex names are names that are used for both sexes but may nevertheless skew more masculine or feminine.

Of course, the gender divide of names shifts constantly, with some formerly gender-neutral names veering into predominantly masculine or feminine territory, while other names become more gender-neutral. Charlie, for example, was historically a masculine nickname for Charles. Today, it’s the most common gender-neutral name, used for baby girls and boys in equal numbers.

Along with Charlie, the other top gender-neutral names include River, Blake, Emerson, Hayden, Finley, Amari, Phoenix, Dakota, and Sage. Cool gender-neutral names that rank outside of the Top 1000 for both sexes include Ocean, Hollis, True, and Lexington.

Gender-neutral names are used for a single sex in no less than 35 percent but no more than 65 percent of instances in a given year. The top names that are currently gender neutral in usage include the following.

RemyHeart

  • Origin:

    French from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "oarsman"
  • Description:

    The name of a fifth century saint and one of a new generation of French names being discovered in the US, Remy sounds particularly modern and attractive. The name Remy is being revived for both boys and girls, sometimes as Remi. It entered the popularity list in 2009 and has quickly become one of the fastest-rising names on the list.

RiverHeart

  • Origin:

    Nature name
  • Description:

    River shares the tranquil feeling of all the water names, and seems to have pretty much escaped its past strong association with River Phoenix and his unfortunate fate. Keri Russell and the Taylor Hansons both have sons named River, Natasha Henstridge used it as the middle name of her boy Tristan, and Jason Schwartzman pluralized it for daughter Marlowe Rivers.

RoryHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "red king"
  • Description:

    This spirited Gaelic classic, which became popular in Ireland via the illustrious twelfth century king Rory O'Connor, makes a highly energetic choice, now used for either sex. Rory's gender split is still trending boyward; it's one of the coolest boys' names starting with R.

PhoenixHeart

  • Origin:

    Arizona place-name and Greek
  • Meaning:

    "dark red"
  • Description:

    Phoenix rolls a lot of cool trends into one: it's a place-name and a bird name, it ends in the oh-so-hip letter x, and as the mythic bird that rose from the ashes, it's a symbol of immortality. It's also got celebrity chops, via the acting family that includes Joaquin and the late River, and as the child of an ex-Spice Girl.

SageHeart

  • Origin:

    Herb name; Latin
  • Meaning:

    "wise"
  • Description:

    Sage is an evocatively fragrant herbal name that also connotes wisdom, giving it a double advantage. It entered the Top 1000 at about the same time for both genders in the early 1990s, but it has pulled ahead for the girls. Toni Collette named her daughter Sage Florence.

KitHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Christopher
  • Description:

    Actor Kit Harington, aka the dreamy Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, has given this nickname-name new style and appeal for boys. Actress Jodie Foster used it for her son. For girls, it's an updated diminutive of Katherine.

AriHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Ariel, Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "lion of God"
  • Description:

    Ari, the short form of Ariel (or any other Ari- beginning name, such as Aristotle) stands up better as a boys’ name than its progenitor does. It is also short for Aristotle, as in Onassis, and is a prominent character on TV's Entourage -- the uberagent Ari Gold.

BlakeHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "fair-haired, dark"
  • Description:

    Blake -- an early unisex option -- dropped out of the Top 100 in 2017 for the first time since 1988, but remains a sophisticated choice. And yes, both conflicting meanings of Blake are accurate. It originated as a surname in England derived from a nickname. Much of its masculine image was influenced by the wealthy, silver-haired character Blake Carrington in the massively popular 80s TV series Dynasty. Rosie O'Donnell has a son named Blake.

BriarHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "a thorny patch"
  • Description:

    Fairy-tale memories of Sleeping Beauty inspire some parents—such as Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen—to call their daughters Briar Rose. But Briar plus a different middle name might work even better. It's one of the newly popular nature-word names, charting in the US for the first time in 2015 for both genders.

RenHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Rene or Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "water lily; lotus"
  • Description:

    A very popular name for boys, also used for girls, in Japan, most familiar in the West as half of cartoon's "Ren and Stimpy," and as the hero in both the original and updated versions of "Footloose."

HaydenHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "fire"
  • Description:

    Hayden – a formerly obscure name that's risen to huge popularity – has dipped in this year's ratings. Though Hayden is among the most distinctive of the bunch, it gets lost in the crowd of Jaidens, Bradens, Aidans, and endless variations. Associated with Hayden Christensen, of Star Wars fame.

IraHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "watchful one"
  • Description:

    Ira is one of the shortest, non-biblical sounding Old Testament names, belonging to one of King David's thirty 'mighty warriors.' It was widely used in the US from the 1880s to the early 1930s (it was Number 57 on the Social Security list in 1881), but fell off completely in 1993. Although Ira is also a retirement-account acronym, it's back on the table for those seeking a short biblical name for their sons, and reentered the US Top 1000 in 2016. A musical namesake is lyricist Ira Gershwin (born Israel), a literary one is Ira Levin, and there are two prominent Iras hosting NPR radio shows..

EmersonHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "son of Emery"
  • Description:

    The combination of Emily and Emma's popularity -- and the fact that Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher's daughter is named Emerson -- have put this formerly strictly boys’ name, embodying the gravitas of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the limelight for girls.

AmariHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "eternal"
  • Description:

    An originally male name also used for girls, mostly because of its soft sound and vowel ending. Related to names and words in a range of languages—Yoruba, Thai, Hebrew—and with a variety of positive meanings.

ShilohHeart

  • Origin:

    Biblical place-name, Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "tranquil"
  • Description:

    Cool meets Born Again meets Brad and Angelina, who made Shiloh an instant star when they chose it for their daughter. While Shiloh has risen from obscurity thanks to its celebrity baby use, it hasn't become a star the way brother names Maddox and Pax have. It entered the Top 1000 in 2007, one year after the birth of Ms. Jolie-Pitt.

SuttonHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "from the southern homestead"
  • Description:

    Sutton is a plain-sounding surname most notably worn by Tony-winning Broadway actress Sutton Foster, now starring in TV Land's Younger -- based on a novel written by Nameberry co-creator Pamela Redmond Satran.

FinleyHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish and Scottish
  • Meaning:

    "fair-haired hero"
  • Description:

    This was a 100 percent boys’ name until celebs Jason Sehorn and Angie Harmon bestowed it on their daughter, recently followed by Lisa Marie Presley, who used it for one of her (female) twins. Finlay is also now among the most popular unisex names.

BellamyHeart

  • Origin:

    English and Irish from French
  • Meaning:

    "fine friend"
  • Description:

    Bellamy is a surname name with an admirable meaning and upbeat rhythm, similar to jovial choices like Rafferty, Barnaby and Willoughby.

BowieHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish
  • Meaning:

    "blond"
  • Description:

    Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn put this name in play as a first name, but David Bowie (born with the considerably less marketable moniker of David Robert Jones) dyed it blond and gave it charisma. He changed his surname in 1965 to avoid confusion with the then popular Davy Jones of The Monkees, and especially since his death, his admirers have seen it as an increasingly viable baby name namesake.

JulesHeart

  • Origin:

    French form of Latin Julius
  • Meaning:

    "youthful; soft, downy"
  • Description:

    Though Jules hasn't been on the US popularity list in fifty years, it is a current hit in its native France—where it's currently in the Top 10—and we can definitely see it making a comeback here, being far more romantic than, say, Jim.

RobinHeart

  • Origin:

    Bird name, or English, diminutive of Robert
  • Meaning:

    "bright fame"
  • Description:

    Sounded bright and chirpy in the fifties and ranked in the Top 100 until 1980, but by now Robin has lost much of its lilt. For a girl, consider a sprightlier-sounding bird name: Deryn, Lark, Wren. Robin is, however, having something of a style comeback for boys.

CharlieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Charles or Charlotte
  • Meaning:

    "free man"
  • Description:

    Charlie is one of the friendly, tomboyish male nickname names--another is Sam-- now used almost as frequently for girls: in 2015, it ranked higher on the girls list than on the boys list for the first time. That makes Charlie one of the most popular unisex names around today. The name Charlie, for females, has been jumping up the charts since it reappeared, after a 50-year hibernation, in 2005.

JamieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of James
  • Meaning:

    "supplanter"
  • Description:

    Jamie is typical of the relaxed unisex names starting with J that seemed so cool in the sixties after decades of Jeans and Joans, though now pretty tepid. Jaime and even Jamey and Jayme are alternate spellings.

RioHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish
  • Meaning:

    "river"
  • Description:

    Rio is a reductive ranchero place-name with an attractive Tex-Mex lilt. No Doubt's Tom Dumont has a son named Rio Atticus.

AzariahHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "helped by God"
  • Description:

    Azariah is a rarely used biblical name that moves way beyond Adam and Abraham; its pleasant sound makes it no surprise that parents have discovered it in recent years.

MurphyHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "sea warrior"
  • Description:

    This jaunty Celtic surname -- the most common family name in Ireland -- is totally viable as a first. Although there was a possibility of its being feminized via the old TV sitcom "Murphy Brown," it has never taken off for girls and very much retains its masculine image.

DakotaHeart

  • Origin:

    Native American tribe and place name; Sioux
  • Meaning:

    "friendly one"
  • Description:

    A Native American tribe name which is found in the names of two US states, Dakota was one of the first trendy nineties place names, but is now flagging a little in popularity. The cultural question around using a Native American tribe name as a baby name may be partly to blame.

TatumHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "Tate's homestead"
  • Description:

    Tatum is strong, distinctive, energetic, and recommended, especially if your last name is as congenial as O'Neal. The name is now used for both genders, with the balance running about two to one in favor of the girls.

CaseyHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "brave in battle"
  • Description:

    Casey is a name with a big wide grin, Irish, friendly, and open, and associated with several American folk heroes--Casey Jones, the engine driver of the Cannonball Express who gave his life to save his passengers, and the legendary Casey at the Bat.

SalemHeart

  • Origin:

    Biblical place-name or Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "safe"
  • Description:

    Salem is a biblical place-name in Canaan, believed to be the same as Jerusalem. Americans may be more familiar with Salem as the name of the Massachusetts town famous for its witch trials in the late 1600s. It's also a popular Arabic name widely-used for both genders.

EverHeart

  • Origin:

    English word name
  • Description:

    Ever's timeless quality would make this evocative word a positive middle name choice for a boy or girl. Alanis Morissette and Souleye named their son Ever Imre.

    Ever also seems to have ties to a Scandinavian name meaning "wild as a boar" and a Hebrew name meaning "beyond,"-- a variation of the name Eber.

OakleyHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "oak clearing"
  • Description:

    The Annie Oakley connection makes this a bit more girl-appropriate. Oakley has the dubious honor of belonging to the 'brand' names baby club- after the Oakley sunglasses. This name made it into the Top 1000 for the first time in 2013, one of only four girl names starting with O to rank that high. We're definitely keeping an eye on this chart-climbing choice.

SheaHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "the stately, dauntless one"
  • Description:

    The short but solid Irish surname Shea works for both genders; Kevin James has a daughter named Shea. Shay is another possible spelling.

LindenHeart

  • Origin:

    Variation of Lyndon
  • Meaning:

    "linden tree hill"
  • Description:

    The graceful, natural image of the verdant shade tree transcends any connection with President Johnson.

HollisHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "near the holly bushes"
  • Description:

    Hollis is a surname-name used quietly for both genders. In 2015, it was given to 176 boys and 106 girls in the US. It has notable connections for both genders: Hollis Thompson is a professional (male) basketball player, while Hollis is an outsized favorite for girls in South Carolina, where Pete Hollis was a community folk hero. On the girls' side, it makes Holly more buttoned-up and distinctive.

OllieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Oliver
  • Description:

    Down-home nickname name once associated with the friendly dragon on kids' TV.

KhariHeart

  • Origin:

    West African
  • Meaning:

    "kingly"
  • Description:

    Though used quite often for babies of both sexes, Khari, meaning "kingly," was traditionally a boys' name. Musical couple Fetty Wop and Masika Kalysha, however, named their daughter Khari.

DenverHeart

  • Origin:

    English or French place-name and surname
  • Meaning:

    "from Anvers"
  • Description:

    Before there was Aspen, Denver was the Colorado city name of choice, and it reentered the US Top 1000 in 2015 after a 14 year absence as a stylish two-syllable boys’ name with its trendy -er ending. Its decade of greatest use was the 1920s, when it reached as high as Number 422.

StormHeart

  • Origin:

    Word name
  • Description:

    The name of one of the most powerful Marvel superheroes — and the first major black female comic book heroine — is certainly a big one to live up to! Portrayed in the live-action X-Men movies first by Halle Berry and then by Alexandra Shipp, Storm is a mutant descended from a long line of African witch-priestesses, who can bend the weather and atmosphere to her will.

MilanHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian place name or Slavic
  • Meaning:

    "gracious, dear"
  • Description:

    As Mila rises for girls, so Milan is becoming a more popular option for boys, especially after singer Shakira chose it for her son. After a 55-year hiatus, it reentered the Top 1000 in 2013 and is heading dramatically upward.

ChandlerHeart

  • Origin:

    French occupational name
  • Meaning:

    "candle maker"
  • Description:

    For a generation, this name will always be linked to 1990s hit TV series Friends. Whether this is a positive or a negative will depend on your fondness for the show, and character Chandler Bing, but this name deserves consideration beyond these connotations: Chandler is a fresh take on the professional surname names.

HonorHeart

  • Origin:

    Virtue name
  • Description:

    Honor is a somewhat more pressured virtue name than Hope or Grace, placing a high standard on any girl carrying it, but it's a goal worth setting. By choosing Honor for her daughter, Jessica Alba brought it very much into the modern world.

PerryHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "dweller near a pear tree"
  • Description:

    It's a long time now since this casual but suave name was linked to velvet-throated, cardigan-sweatered singer Perry (born Pierino, son of Pietro) Como's day...and this could be the moment for a reassessment.

IndianaHeart

  • Origin:

    American place-name
  • Meaning:

    "land of the Indians"
  • Description:

    Indiana is one of those place-names (think Camden and Trenton) that sounds cooler than the place that inspired it. Its fashionable -ana ending certainly sounds eminently name-like, and Indie/Indy/Indi is one of the hottest nickname names for girls right now.

LarkinHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "rough, fierce"
  • Description:

    While Larkin takes this name from girlish bird to boyish surname, there are actually more female Larkins these days than male, and it's a name that works as well for either gender.

RoyalHeart

  • Origin:

    English word name
  • Description:

    Even less subtle than Duke or Earl, this name is leaping up the popularity charts, probably due in part to a boost from the hit Lorde song "Royals."

SkylerHeart

  • Origin:

    Spelling variation of Skylar or Schuyler
  • Description:

    Skylar is the most popular feminine contemporary version of this name, while the Skyler spelling is given to nearly equal numbers of girls and boys. The original Dutch Schuyler means "scholar."

RianHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "little king"
  • Description:

    More authentic and original form of Ryan.

OceanHeart

  • Origin:

    Nature name
  • Description:

    Ocean is a nature name that comes right out and states its meaning and association. Full of power and depth, Ocean is rising in usage as a baby name, given to 116 baby girls and 166 baby boys in 2018. Oceane, the version that's trendy in France, was used for only nine baby girls in the US in the same year. Ocean-lovers who want to be less obvious can choose such subtler names that mean ocean as Jennifer or Marissa, but coming right out and using Ocean is a perfectly valid way to go.
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