Unisex names -- where do you draw the line?

[name]How[/name] far is too far in your opinion when it comes to unisex or gender-bending names?

Personally, I think that surnames are pretty much fair game for either sex. Admittedly, there are some I prefer for girls and some for boys ([name]Hunter[/name], [name]Carter[/name], [name]Porter[/name], [name]Willis[/name] I see as more masculine; [name]Tierney[/name], [name]Delaney[/name], Hennesy, [name]Greer[/name] I see as more feminine) but that’s just personal preference.

The reason I think of them as ‘fair game’ is that use of surnames as first names has been used for hundreds of years (since the Reformation), and not just solely for boys. In 1609, for example, [name]Lord[/name] [name]Paget[/name] called his daughter [name]Essex[/name] because his father-in-law was [name]Earl[/name] of [name]Essex[/name]. The practice was confined to the upper classes until the 19th century when it filtered down to the masses.

I myself have a great x 4 grandmother, born in 1814 in a small village in [name]Norfolk[/name] ([name]England[/name]), called [name]Willoughby[/name]. I assume that this was the surname of a local celebrity as quite a few boys and girls at that time in the area were given the name. Looking through the records, one family even called their daughter [name]Willoughby[/name], and when she died in infancy, gave the name to their son. And another family who had both a son and daughter called Clopton (a family surname). So the gender-bending clearly didn’t bother them much.

Other ones from the area:





However, I admit that it’s like nails on a blackboard for me when I hear masculine names (i.e. names that started life as a masculine first name regardless of their later use as surnames) being used for girls. Examples being [name]Evan[/name], [name]Dylan[/name], [name]Finley[/name], [name]Bryn[/name], [name]Ryan[/name] (notice it’s mostly the Celtic boys that get it in the neck?) [name]Reese[/name]/[name]Rhys[/name], [name]Luca[/name], [name]Cameron[/name], [name]Shane[/name]. There are so many wonderful girls names out there, imo, why choose a boys name.

Also, despite my feelings for surnames being up for grabs for either gender, meaning is important to me, so any surname that means ‘son of’ given to a girl is a little odd to me. This includes [name]Mac[/name]/Mc names and the ‘ab’ Welsh names ([name]Bevan[/name], [name]Brice[/name]) but mostly the ones ending in -son as the meaning is much more inherent.

So, how about you? Where do you draw the line?

I like some unisex names, but they aggravate me all the same. It’s pretty much obvious that there are already more girls’ names than boys’ names, and yet the girls’ parents continue to destroy perfectly good boys’ names.
All I really have to say on this matter is: If the girls take [name]James[/name], I don’t know what I’ll do.

If a name sounds feminine ([name]Lindsey[/name], [name]Leslie[/name], [name]Delaney[/name]), then I think it can be used for a girl. But I don’t think names like [name]Ryan[/name], [name]Logan[/name] and [name]Dylan[/name] sound very feminine. There are so many beautiful female names, and many boys would be embarrassed to have a name that is also given to a lot of girls, so I think some names should be left for males.

[name]Do[/name] you think names like [name]Sonny[/name] and Daylee are Feminine? just wondering because they are in my list of names and im not sure?

I know quite a few boys called [name]Sonny[/name] and with the [name]Son[/name] part it sounds masculine to me. I like a lot of male names that end in ‘ly’ ([name]Finlay[/name], [name]Bradley[/name], [name]Ashley[/name] – this is boy in UK --, [name]Wesley[/name]) but Daylee could be construed as feminine to some as ‘ley/lee’ is a common/trendy ending for girls names.

I can’t stand when someone names a girl [name]Tyler[/name], and [name]Noah[/name]. Those aren’t girls names to me! [name]How[/name] about [name]Taylor[/name] for the girl, and [name]Noelle[/name] for the girl!

I like [name]Riley[/name] for a girl, not a boy.

Could [name]Willoughby[/name] be from [name]Jane[/name] [name]Austen[/name]'s Sense & Sensibility? It was published in 1811, although I have no idea how quickly it caught on. Could be one person read it, named her son after the rogue, and then the name caught on in the neighborhood.

I feel that once a name has gone unisex, it no longer belongs to the boys, it belongs to the girls. It’s a sad thing too since there are so many names for girls already and stealing them from boys makes the boy pool increasingly smaller.

This is coming from the mother of one boy and one on the way. It’s so hard coming up with a name you love and then finding out it is largely used for girls too. I want clearly masculine names for my boys and the pickings are getting slim.

I met a mom at a park pushing her little girl on the swing next to my son. When she told me her daughter’s name was [name]Kendall[/name], I immediately thought, “Oh, you’re that kind.” It just drives me nuts when women take men’s names and put them on their daughters. [name]Do[/name] you see men taking women’s names and putting them on their sons?

I’m not trying to say bad things about you or argue your opinions, but it’s people like you that shy away from a name just because it’s also being used for girls that contributes to the plight of boy’s names going to the girls (it’s not just the parents who use those names on girls that are to blame). The way to help keep these kinds of names (at least somewhat) masculine is to continue using them for boys. By the way, this statement is coming from a guy with a unisex name himself.

I don’t really have a line. I don’t like most of the names often suggested for boys around here, in fact, they are supposed to sound handsome and a lot of them are surnames, I don’t deliberately dislike them, I just think they sound weird like some hero in a book or some character, not a real kid. However, I don’t also like a lot of the girly girl names. I like straightforward kind of names. I think the trend to use boy names for girls or SURNAMES actually, why are they only for boys? Girls not good enough?

I mean, that’s how I really feel about it. I find a lot of feminized boy names for girls are being used, why not an actual name that ends in -ley. The first [name]Bailey[/name] I ever heard of was a female character on TV. Doesn’t make it a girls name, but there are names like [name]Allison[/name], pretty sure that was a boy’s name. That’s now a girls name. It’s no longer very popular, but it sets a tone, people like the sound of it and the trend evolves to include a name like [name]Madison[/name] (also the first [name]Madison[/name] most people knew was also a woman) and [name]Emerson[/name]. It is sort of like, nobody was using them anyway. Now you want to call them back to the boys side.

[name]Kendall[/name] doesn’t sound like a boy’s name. Sorry. For a name for a boy to sound masculine it has to sound like it’s not a girl. [name]Cameron[/name] is both ways. I don’t think it has gone to the girls, but then there are names like [name]Patrick[/name] and [name]Patricia[/name] or [name]Christopher[/name] and [name]Christina[/name], with the same nickname, I grew up with boys and girls named [name]Chris[/name] all around me, and it never seemed to bother anyone that the boys had a girl’s name or vice versa. The problem being some male names are successful as girls names, like [name]Ashley[/name] or [name]Kimberly[/name] or [name]Marion[/name] because they just sound like they should be girls names, and those are the ones that cross for good. After some time, they might even sound too feminine and lacy and flower for a girl. I like girls to grow up to be women and taken seriously, not to be weighed down in gender-assignment so much. I still like girls names for girls but less princess ballerina kind, really straightforward and serious kind of names, you don’t have to think of a nickname for.

Boys names, it’s harder. It’s harder because in our society, it’s ok for women to be like men, but not for men to be like women and have any attributes about them pointing to sissification of their being, like females have no positive attributes any boy or man would want to have - that’s what you’re saying. Women can have strength, courage, confidence and capability, and have equal positions to a man, so some parents prefer a boy’s name, but some of these comments sound like “it’s only ok for boys to have this name.”

The trouble actually is, it’s society and culture that makes it not ok for a boy to have a girls name, or have anything about them that is soft and girly. You want a softer less common, or surname name for your son than the [name]John[/name] or [name]Max[/name] or [name]Matthew[/name] or [name]Zachary[/name], but you don’t want people thinking that means you think he’s a girl. That’s the problem. It’s really that you need to protect manliness from women, that’s kind of tough cookies in my book.

Specific Example:
I tried to write something last night (even less coherent than this, lol) that it seemed odd to me that I know there’s a character on tv named [name]Pacey[/name] and find out that it’s a guy. [name]Tracy[/name] and [name]Stacy[/name] are kind of girl names now, [name]Pacey[/name] might be short for something, but I think when you are grown, I don’t know how old [name]Pacey[/name] is, but boys I knew growing up weren’t [name]Ricky[/name] or [name]Frankie[/name] or [name]Eddie[/name] forever. Call him his name or [name]Rick[/name], [name]Frank[/name], [name]Ed[/name]. [name]Pacey[/name] sounds like a girl’s name to me, not a very good one. I feel quite awful to admit this, it sounds like a small pet, like a parakeet or gerbil might have that name, not fit for a human. This character on tv must be something else for people to think that name sounds especially good on anyone. I say this because I love names, but I can’t love every name. I hear the sound of this name, and I repeat, I feel awful and mean, but it doesn’t sound like a plausible name for a capable human being of either sex. I’ve gone over it in my mind as if this [name]Pacey[/name] was a girl, which I thought it was. I imagined her resenting her mother for giving her such an incomprehensibly silly name. If it sounded like anyone capable, I might have assumed it was a boy, which is also wrong.

What we really want is for girls not to have to have names that are silly and pet like and overly ribbons and bows, so if boys own all the names that aren’t, guess what’s going to happen? Boys don’t own strength and ability so why do they own all the names that sound better?

[name]Karen[/name], I just want you to know how much I respect and agree with what you have so thoughtfully written here!

As a woman considering naming her daughter [name]Elliott[/name], [name]Remy[/name] or [name]Alexandra[/name] ([name]Andie[/name]) I am beginning to think long and hard about using a name that is often heard for boys. I do understand that people are sometimes put off by it or may think “I am one of those people” but on the pother hand I want to give my daughter a strong name that both DH and I love and we just are not “[name]Isabella[/name]” kind of people. [name]Even[/name] our girl dog’s name is [name]Sammy[/name] and we love it!

I am also a person who likes [name]Kellan[/name], [name]Gabriel[/name], [name]Sebastian[/name] and other names for boys that to me do have a bit of sensitivity to them.

[name]Karen[/name], I think I get what you mean, and for the most part I agree. A lot of the names you mentioned ([name]Bailey[/name], [name]Allison[/name], [name]Madison[/name], [name]Kendall[/name], [name]Ashley[/name]) are surnames, so come under the ‘fair-game’ category for me, as I mentioned above.

I certainly agree that it seems to be a one way street, because in our society, it’s okay for a girl to be like a man, but not okay for a boy to be like a girl.

I think that’s why it seems to be the parents of boys, and not the parents of girls, that get annoyed most by unisex names. And I can see their point. [name]Imagine[/name] giving your son a name that you liked and considered ‘a good strong boys name’ and then he went to school and shared a class with a girl sharing the same name. I can imagine that a lot would worry that their son would get bullied for having a ‘girly’ name and that their reaction would be “But I didn’t give my son a girly name! I gave him a boys name!”

It seems unfair because it is like society is saying to parents of girls “Use any name you fancy. If you like it, use it.” Whereas for parents of boys it says “You can’t use that! It’s used on girls. It’s girly!”

(I’m not saying I’m against girls using these name, I’m just saying that it a bit of a double standard)

Basically, I can see why it is a sensitive issue and it only seems to highlight decificiencies in our society’s attitude to the gender-divide.

I agree. Names like [name]Evelyn[/name] and [name]Vivian[/name] are considered feminine now because they stopped being used on boys. Whereas names like [name]Taylor[/name] and [name]Jordan[/name] are still used for both because parents are still calling their sons it.

(P.S. I’m not saying [name]Taylor[/name] or [name]Jordan[/name] are male or female – I’m just using them to illustrate my point)

I’m not trying to say bad things about you or argue your opinions, but it’s people like you that shy away from a name just because it’s also being used for girls that contributes to the plight of boy’s names going to the girls (it’s not just the parents who use those names on girls that are to blame). The way to help keep these kinds of names (at least somewhat) masculine is to continue using them for boys. By the way, this statement is coming from a guy with a unisex name himself.[/quote]

I respectfully disagree with your opinion and also think it’s great you like your name. There is no reason you should hate your name just because it is unisex. But, I think when a masculine name is rarely used by girls, there is no harm in considering it still a masculine name and feeling safe in using it for your boy, no gender confusion. It is more likely in that instance that it is the girl and not the boy who will be confused for the opposite gender.

I haven’t really been interested in names until now, and even I knew [name]Kendall[/name] was increasingly used for girls. When a name becomes like that, popular for girls to use a traditionally male name, that is what I have a problem with. I don’t want my sons being embarrassed that someone mistook them for a girl, or that there is a girl in his class named the same name. Also, I don’t feel just because a male name has a soft sound, it’s automatically considered fair game for the girls.

But I guess that’s people’s prerogative. They can do whatever they want with names. It just bothers me, also because boys never take girls names but girls take boys all the time.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Besides which, some masculine names sound so feminine, at least in current times. I would almost say some names are unfit for boys on the sound of them alone, so why shouldn’t a girl use it, even as one might choose a pretty sounding girl name, a boy’s name that already sounds too girly for a boy sounds like it should just go in the other pile. You mentioned [name]Willoughby[/name]. My post was already so long, I had to cut it off before I could address it, but I think [name]Willoughby[/name] is not manly enough anymore.

Someone the other day asked why we love names, I think they meant when we suggest a name we like, why do we like it? I suggest cultural fascination (including how our own names shaped us, characters or public figures we’ve read or heard about, as well as gender identity and roles), and things like fashion trends as well as language.

I think we’ve gone through much naming fashion that [name]Willoughby[/name] contains elements associated with a feminine-sounding name anymore. I can imagine finding an older male with that name and maybe it was even snickered at then, you don’t know unless you ask him, among all the [name]James[/name] and Johns and Peters and Henrys, did having the name [name]Willoughby[/name] affect his social life? Or was it all cool then? A young boy in school with some family name so his parents could avoid some normal name like [name]William[/name] and still call him [name]Will[/name] - I cannot imagine this would fly. If you look under the male name entry for [name]Kimberly[/name], it says “For a boy, don’t you dare.” Is [name]Willoughby[/name] suitable for a boy? The male name entry says, “An energetic last-name-first route to the popular short form [name]Will[/name].” For the female name entry, it says “This is a variation of [name]Willow[/name].” It doesn’t even retain the English origin or the meaning, “farm in the willows.” It’s hard to keep after some of the oversights on this website, they do a pretty good job overall. But I see [name]Willoughby[/name] carrying off like [name]Willow[/name] or [name]Kimberly[/name] on a baby boy. I don’t think as a society we ought to resent all those names floating over to the other side. A lot of it has to do with what names we’ve already grown accustomed to while those names were busy being unpopular, only to resurface again sounding more feminine.

There’s also some sort of fallacy with this. Quite a big fashion of some time was the feminization of a man’s name, possibly to name a girl after male relatives (I have a feeling it was somewhat of male ego thing, not as popular to see girls named after their mother). So you get the [name]Toni[/name], [name]Charlie[/name], [name]Patty[/name], [name]Bobbie[/name], [name]Geri[/name]… and like I said before, [name]Chris[/name]. There were a lot of Jennifers and Michaels for my classmates, but if you count [name]Chris[/name], male or female, I think it tops [name]Jennifer[/name] or [name]Michael[/name] in overall popularity of names. I know male and female Coreys and Caseys who may or may not have a distinct formal name.

I’m not sure it’s anything unusual about girls having boy names, for boys to share the names of female classmates, but it’s something kind of new for the masculine list (or the family tree) to be consulted for a baby girl’s name, at least all over the country (I mean my country! USA), and for parents of boys to feel that there is getting to be nothing left to choose from, lest they sit in a classroom with 4 girls and their son with the same effin’ name. If you like a boys name, consider that some girls might have it, but it’s still unusual for them to have a particular name, as long as it’s not [name]Madison[/name] or [name]Taylor[/name], or consider that some names from the past, like [name]Allison[/name] and [name]Ashley[/name] have influenced the taste for an updated version, and some names will be firm on the girls side after a while, but not most of them.

I would stop short of anything that sounds overly masculine or any really common boys’ names–like [name]Chris[/name] or [name]Ben[/name]. Girls have a lot, but they can’t have them all.

Really? [name]Kendall[/name] sounds like a last name to me, but as a first name, I’d definitely think girl.

On the flip side to this topic, I wonder if parents who give their daughters traditionally male names ever consider any negative repercussions. This is just my opinion, but girly/feminine women are best at pulling off a man’s name. [name]Bo[/name] [name]Derek[/name] and [name]Daryl[/name] [name]Hannah[/name] got away with having male names (if that’s even their real names) because they’re both stunningly gorgeous. But I can’t imagine the teasing/insults a woman could get growing up with a name like this if they happen to be tomboyish or unattractive.

My name is [name]Allison[/name] and that’s probably why I don’t see that big of an issue with girls using boy’s names that have a feminine sound. [name]Even[/name] though the root “son of” is masculine, just because I’ve become so used to having one of those names myself, I tend to think of [name]Addison[/name] and [name]Emerson[/name] as girls. The name [name]Allison[/name] is truly a boy’s name (that has derived from a surname), but honestly, do any of you think of it as anything but a girl’s name? I guess we’ve bcome used to it. A lot of these names that have made the cross-over were underused for boys anyway, it’s not like [name]Michael[/name] is the top 10 for girls or anything! Personally I think nobody was lining up to use these boy’s names that sound feminine, so I don’t see a big problem with them getting some use.

I think there has to be a point where the whole using boy’s names on girls stops, or before long, we’ll have no boy’s name left to use!

It saddens me to see so many handsome male names getting ‘stolen’ by the girls.

Thankfully, it hasn’t got too bad here in the UK, and boy’s names like [name]Rhys[/name], [name]Elliot[/name], [name]James[/name] and [name]Ryan[/name], are still very much boy’s names. You’ll see [name]Jaden[/name], [name]Kaden[/name] etc on a girl, [name]Riley[/name] and [name]Ashley[/name] as well (although both of these are still very much mainly boy names), but I’m not bothered about those so much.

What I am bothered about, is REAL boy names being used on girls, it’s actually getting ridiculous in my opinion. I’ve even heard of [name]Peter[/name] being used on a girl. Stop now, before we have to start giving our sons numbers, instead of names!

As someone drawn to very feminine names, I’m often surprised when parents feel the need to give girls boy names in order for them to sound stronger, especially since other parents stop naming their boys those names as soon as they meet girls with them. I suppose I just take it as a given that there’s nothing lacking in most girl names; they sound both strong and feminine to me. I wouldn’t mess with a [name]Veronica[/name], for instance, and [name]Isabella[/name] of Castile was formidable. It was an [name]Amelia[/name] who flew solo across the Atlantic. If I wanted a more masculine-feeling name for my girl, I would name her something like [name]Paige[/name], [name]Joan[/name] or [name]Min[/name]. That said, there’s a rich tradition of name-poaching, so it’s not fair to heap all of our frustration on contemporary parents, and with our changing gender landscape, maybe we need not panic and give up on boy names that girls are using like people did in past generations.

Edited to add: I understand that not all parents choose male names in an effort to make their daughters seem strong; sometimes they just like the sound of the name, are using it as a namesake, or have only heard the name used on girls before, etc.