In Search of Truly Androgynous Baby Names
Are there truly androgynous names? Names that divide so evenly between the sexes that they give you no hint whether the baby is a boy or girl? There are, but fewer than you might think.
Here are the names given to 500 or more total babies last year that had the most even sex ratios. (The numbers listed are percentage females minus percentage males, so that a perfectly unisex name would come out as 0% and a name with a 45/55 F/M distribution would be -10.)
As you see, only 5 names have a gap < 10%, but all of the names on the list could be considered "unguessably androgynous."
What does an even sex ratio mean for these names long-term? Are they really in a stable unisex balance, or are we just looking at a list of names in mid-transition, changing from one sex to the other? In generations past, an even ratio would have been a sign that a boy's name was heading toward the girl's side, never to return.
For a peek into the likely future, let's take a look at the recent past. Below are the most unisex names from 10 years prior, with their female/male percentages then and now.
|Name||F-M 2000||F-M 2010|
A handful of names actually repeat from the 2000 list to 2010, showing stable unisex balance. But other names have tilted significantly, and now favor one sex by as much as a 20:1 ratio. Notably, there's little pattern to the direction of the tilts. A balanced name seems as likely to move toward the male side as the female.
If you like true androgyny in a name, the good news is that it does seem possible to maintain it. The bad news is that any given name's path is maddeningly unpredictable. Surnames, word names, creative spellings; all have examples moving in all directions. Some of the biggest moves -- Ashton shifting masculine, Dakota moving from the male column to top this year's unisex list -- were driven by celebrities. Yet despite a prominent male Peyton, football star Peyton Manning, both spellings of Peyton tilted toward the feminine.
The upshot: when you choose an androgynous name, you should choose it with the understanding that by the time your child is an adult, the name could fall anywhere on the masculine/feminine spectrum.