Gender-Neutral Naming

Does anyone else here on NB try to avoid sorting names into “boy” and “girl” categories? And if so, if you were to name a child this way (or already have), how would you navigate gender neutral naming while avoiding giving a “male” child a name that might predispose them to mocking or vice versa?

Personally, I tend to like nature names and older, more obscure names that people are less likely to assign a gender to (for example, [name_m]Basil[/name_m] and [name_u]Harper[/name_u] are two of my absolute favorites).

I prefer more gender neutral names, for me, I would lean towards nature, words,and surnames, especially together in combos. I have a few names on my list I would definitely use for a male child that a lot of people label “feminine”, such as [name_u]Juniper[/name_u] and [name_u]Waverly[/name_u], I think adding something that skews more “masculine” in the middle would even things out, such as [name_u]Juniper[/name_u] [name_m]Endymion[/name_m] from my list and [name_m]Endymion[/name_m] is so obscure it could go for any baby in my book.

I’ve never heard of [name_m]Endymion[/name_m]! It’s got a nice ring to it! And surname names are a good way to approach gender-neutral naming, I’ll have to consider them more.

Myself and my partner are on the same page regarding the fact that names don’t have a gender (my partner is generally on the ‘gender in general isn’t real anyway’ side). I love the names [name_u]Ruby[/name_u], [name_f]Rose[/name_f], [name_f]Jayne[/name_f] and [name_u]Winter[/name_u] on baby boys. Girls names I think are easier to say ‘Oh I love [name_u]James[/name_u] on a girl!’ and people will be fine with it.

That being said. The names I love are very gendered within our society, so I will likely use traditionally gendered names on the correspondingly sexed child.

But in theory, I’m all for using any name on any child and I am a big supporter of people blurring the gender line with names. Especially more ‘feminine’ names on boys, because my main annoyance around ‘gender neutral’ name trends is really people deciding that ‘girly’ is weak or frivolous but masculine names are powerful and cool. It just feels like an extension of sexism because the feminine is still viewed as less.

This was sort of a thought blurt at you, I hope it was coherent!

if I were to go with a gender neutral naming style, I’d honestly probably stick to words and surnames, because I don’t really see those as gendered (even if they end in the -son suffix - surnames were often bestowed to both genders to keep the name in the family), and this way, there’s no real sway one way or another (in my opinion) to a specific gender.

My ideas of gender neutral would be like;


etc. etc.

I agree with most of what maerad said. Gender is overrated and most gendered things don’t make sense to me and/or freak me out. However, names are probably the one exception. Names having a gender feels natural to me, maybe because I’ve never known anything different, and I would use them accordingly: female names for girls, male names for boys, neutral names for intersex kids (which I’m glad is a legal option here now), and if one of them later decides it doesn’t fit for whatever reason, I’ll happily help them find something else.

Also I love [name_f]Jayne[/name_f] too! [name_u]Ruby[/name_u] not so much, but that’s because of the male [name_u]Ruby[/name_u] I know who’s kind of a brat.

Not really, no. I do think that genders are important, wether you identify with yours or not, as they make up a big part of your identity for most people (otherwise there’d be no discussion about the topic) and few like to be confused for the other gender, not because it’s inferior but because it’s simply not who they are.
So I’d personally go with gender-specific names, though if my child would want to go by another, gender neutral name I’d accept that as well.
If I were going in that direction, though, I’d stick to truly neutral names and not add confusion to the mix changing genders of established names (because that would cause the above mentioned problems even more).

Absolutely, I totally agree. I’m on the “gender isn’t real anyway” side too. That said, it’s still so hard for me to see feminine names as gender-neutral, and I agree it’s an extension of sexism. I might personally warm up to it but for now I’m sticking to names that can in general be seen as gender-neutral, and more gender-“appropriate” names will be for the corresponding gender. As for the names you like, they’re all so lovely on a boy!!! I especially love [name_f]Rose[/name_f].

We did this with our son when we named him [name_u]Sage[/name_u]. It was just the name that came to us repeatedly, so we would have used it either way. We did, however, do our research regarding gendered usage within the last few decades, on the social security website. We then searched current pop-culture for popular references, as one strong gendered reference for an otherwise gender-neutral name can easily skew the perspective of people you (or your child) will meet.

That said, a while ago I read a piece on Babynamewizard about how there are no “real” unisex names… the theory there was that a name ALWAYS sways one way or another, sooner or later. If a name truly doesn’t (like [name_u]Jamie[/name_u]), it’s not going to last more than a generation or two. That was a bit sombering to read.

Nature names, word names work well. Last names as first names can work, too. But that basically means that your main naming pool will tend to be modern. If you love mythological or biblical or vintage names, I find it much harder to find neutral names there.

If you go gender neutral you should go 100% gender neutral!
Like [name_u]Robin[/name_u], [name_u]Jordan[/name_u], [name_u]Reese[/name_u]… If your child has that androgynous look he or she can explain the rest of ‘it’s’ life, [name_m]Hi[/name_m] I’m [name_u]Robin[/name_u] and a girl with every first meeting.

Calling your daughter [name_u]James[/name_u] or your son [name_u]Darcy[/name_u] is just mean! We are born with a gender for a reason and if your little [name_f]Charlotte[/name_f] wants to become a [name_m]Charles[/name_m] she will pick the name herself. Life is a journey and we parents are there to guide and support them.

Hmm. Most of my friends who are transgender haven’t picked a whole new name, though. They’ve adapted the one they were given. Changed a few letters, cut it in half or added to it. It’s worth noting they’ve all had good relationships to their families. I know there are times when a whole name makeover is in order.

So I have definitely thought about this when considering names. I tend to like gender neutral names anyway, but when I do fall in love with one that’s super fem., say, I ask myself if a male name could ever be carved out of it–just in case. I think for me part of guiding my child is making room for all of their possible selves. They may absolutely love performing their assigned gender (which is different from their sex ^^). They may feel like the construct is a burden, even if they identify with parts of it. They may hate it. This not knowing them yet is the thing that’s so tricky about naming and why I’m hanging around sites like this, trying to have enough options to maybe get it right.

This is very insightful! Thanks for the reply

I am not a fan of gender neutral names for one reason…they end up becoming solely female names. And that does a disservice to the males that now have girly-names like [name_u]Jordan[/name_u], [name_u]Riley[/name_u], [name_u]Addison[/name_u], [name_u]Avery[/name_u], etc. I support females celebrating their femininity, and don’t believe having a gender neutral name somehow gives females an advantage. It doesn’t. If children wish to claim another gender when older, they always have the option to change thier names and pick one that truly represents them. ([name_u]Haven[/name_u]'t we all wished we had changed our names at one point!)

Well, according to Nameberry my son’s name is on its way to being gender neutral. However, my husband chose his name because he wanted something Biblical, but not super common. And honestly, it surprises me that someone would name a daughter [name_m]Ezra[/name_m].

I love gender neutral names but my hubby doesn’t like them. For a girl we compromised on a name that has gender neutral nickname options ([name_f]Charlotte[/name_f]) but after the last scan it turned out we’re probably gonna get a boy and not a girl… I would love [name_u]Robin[/name_u] or [name_m]Till[/name_m] for a boy but we’ll see if I can convince my hubby or not.

I think names that are short versions of a female and male name are safe ground. Like [name_u]Sam[/name_u] for [name_f]Samantha[/name_f] or [name_m]Samuel[/name_m]. [name_m]Even[/name_m] if [name_u]Sam[/name_u] gets given to girls more often there are still a lot of Samuels going by [name_u]Sam[/name_u] so it never fully will become a girls name. At least thats how I think about it.

Foreign names or not well known names can also make great unisex names. [name_m]Just[/name_m] read about a journalist (?) some days ago who also wanted her daughters to have unisex names and called one of them [name_f]Sigrid[/name_f] which is a norse female name but because it’s unusal and has a harsh sound it gets away as unisex in the usa. That reminded me of the time my hubby (british) meet some of my relatives and had no idea which name belonged to my great aunt and which to my great uncle. :smiley: (I introduced them in the same sentence to him. There names are Hildebrand and Kriemhild, both gendered names in germany.)

I think it’s pretty hard finding a gender neutral name for a boy cause most of them are female leaning. Which he maybe will get teased for in school. And there’s always the risk that those names will become exclusively female.

I like [name_m]Till[/name_m] on a boy which is a male name in germany but seems to pay off as unisex in england because of the female [name_f]Tilly[/name_f].

For boys I probably would make sure that there is a famous male person with that name. Like [name_u]Robin[/name_u] would have [name_m]Christopher[/name_m] [name_u]Robin[/name_u], [name_u]Robin[/name_u] Thicke and Batmans [name_u]Robin[/name_u]. [name_m]Till[/name_m] would have [name_m]Till[/name_m] Lindemann. [name_m]Just[/name_m] so he has an argument when people think he has a girls name and on the other side those people make sure that the name keeps known as a male name also in those areas where it’s given mostly to girls.

(I hope everything makes sence. I feel like there are some grammar mistakes but I’m just too excited for this topic!)

I would strongly advise against this. It may work for someone who has no ties to another culture. But in the eyes of internationals, it’ll just make you look ignorant. We have to be especially respectful with cultures that are not ours… when considering a “foreign” name, really do our homework because they come with a ton of history and connotation we may not be aware of… I would cringe seeing [name_f]Sigrid[/name_f] or Kriemhild on a boy.

That’s because nameberry doesn’t do it’s research before posting -.-
[name_m]Esra[/name_m], in this spelling, is an established turkish name for girls. (If I’m not mistaken the president has a daughter called [name_m]Esra[/name_m] Erdogan). Yet the wiki on this site calls [name_f]Ezra[/name_f] a gender-bend, and [name_m]Esra[/name_m] a spelling variation, when it should in fact be the other way around. But I guess “Gender norms about to fall down any second now” makes for a better headline than “Turns out there are other countries, too”.

I didn’t meant to name boys [name_f]Sigrid[/name_f] or Kriemhild I meant that they could make great unisex sounding names for a girl in an other country. Or also [name_m]Till[/name_m] could make a good unisex sounding name for a boy.

But tbh I wouldn’t see a problem with naming a boy Kriemhild. I could see that it could make a great boy name in an other language. Sure theres the Nibelungen but it’s not like a lot of people know it and as a german I also wouldn’t view it as disrespectful or anything. There’s the trend of turning boy names into girl names even if it isn’t as extrem as in the usa that trend has also reached germany. There are also female [name_m]Robins[/name_m] and [name_u]Elias[/name_u] there. So I would welcome it if we would finally also turn some girls names into boys names and I think german would have some really cool names for that.

Yes people probably should do their homework about it but it’s not like it’s a totally new concept of turning the gender of a foreign name and it’s also not unique to english speaking countries.

Oh, for a unisex-SOUNDING name (without actually using them as unisex) I guess I get your point, and think that would be fine to do.

But I would still find it offensive to use a traditionally feminine name from a foreign culture on a boy, especially if borrowing from a culture that’s not your own. I think it’s more about showing respect to the other culture, which sadly does not go without saying for many people I’ve met.

So, are you [name_m]German[/name_m]? I wasn’t aware that [name_u]Elias[/name_u] was used unisex in Germany right now (I grew up there). I thought it was one of their most popular boy names.
[name_u]Robin[/name_u] to me is a unisex name (although I’ve only ever met boys in Germany with that name).

Yes, I’m german but currently living in [name_f]England[/name_f] and yeah I meant unisex-sounding.

And I get your point. But it’s also not like it’s a totally new concept. E.g [name_u]Nikita[/name_u] is a russian male name but used true europe as unisex/feminine by now. It happens more often then you maybe think. Yes I agree you probably should get some infos about the names so you don’t accidentally dishonor a local hero but it’s not new to give foreign names an other gender. An its also not unique to english speaking countries.

[name_u]Elia[/name_u] is used unisex not so sure about [name_u]Elias[/name_u] but I can also picture that. [name_u]Robin[/name_u] was exclusively male some years ago but now I see more and more birth announcements with girls being named [name_u]Robin[/name_u]. I think for boys the name really dropped. My cousin who has a 4 year old told me they also got a girl named [name_u]Lennox[/name_u] in their kindergarten group so yeah unisex names are getting popular in germany. You can also google it there are a lot of articles in germam from 2017/2018 about such names getting popular. It’s really interesting