Every Unisex Baby Name in America

Jul 6th 2017


Here's a name puzzler: which of these is a unisex baby name?

Leslie
Ashton
Monroe
Kosisochukwu
Salem 

It's a more complicated question than it may seem.

• Leslie was long considered unisex in the U.S. and masculine in Australia and Britain (Lesley was the feminine spelling), but it has fallen out of use for boys.

• Ashton is a surname that became a male given name, then turned unisex, and is now mostly male again.

• Monroe was a purely male name of a century ago that has recently resurfaced as a female name. 

• Kosisochukwu is an Igbo name that is given equally to boys and girls in the U.S., but remains unfamiliar to most Americans. 

• Salem is a place name that was seldom considered as a baby name until the past few years, but is now rising in popularity for boys and girls alike. 

Whether you love unisex names or hope to avoid them, this fast-changing landscape can be confusing to navigate. Here's a basic roadmap. I've collected every baby name that's currently given to significant numbers of girls AND boys in the United States. (The cutoffs: at least 200 total babies born last year, and a sex ratio of no greater than 3:1.) Individually, they're options for parents who seek a name that's genuinely unisex in usage. Collectively, they show us what unisex style looks like…for now.

And to answer the opening question, of the five names I listed only Salem qualifies. 


Image: cafepress.com

THE UNISEX BABY NAMES MASTER LIST
Name Total Babies Born   Percentage Girls
Charlie 3448 0.51
Oakley 1009 0.53
Justice 1257 0.53
Landry 612 0.53
Armani 962 0.46
Skyler 1667 0.54
Azariah 656 0.55
Salem 331 0.56
Campbell 400 0.56
Ramsey 265 0.43
Murphy 286 0.43
Sidney 454 0.57
Dominique 365 0.42
Finley 2961 0.58
Royal 1134 0.42
Robin 406 0.58
Frankie 481 0.59
Lennon 1095 0.59
Yael 305 0.41
Denver 448 0.40
Hayden 3942 0.40
Casey 834 0.39
Emerson 3163 0.62
Rowan 3522 0.38
Baylor 548 0.38
Dakota 2266 0.62
River 2943 0.38
Remy 1042 0.38
Emory 715 0.63
Joan 299 0.37
Rian 244 0.37
Phoenix 1945 0.37
Jaylin 386 0.63
Ira 343 0.36
Sutton 675 0.64
Briar 554 0.64
Lennox 1086 0.36
Rory 1284 0.36
Sage 1454 0.64
Carsyn 331 0.64
Palmer 374 0.64
Milan 1061 0.35
Tatum 1178 0.65
Jessie 699 0.65
Laken 259 0.65
Raleigh 257 0.65
Amari 2046 0.34
Shiloh 738 0.66
Harlem 276 0.34
Merritt 232 0.66
Shay 256 0.66
Remington              2097 0.33
Kamari 589 0.33
Braylin 275 0.33
Kasey 304 0.67
Marion 234 0.68
Khari 250 0.32
Austyn 332 0.68
Camdyn 406 0.32
Reign 502 0.69
Ashtyn 283 0.69
Devyn 324 0.69
Jamie 900 0.69
Rowen 573 0.31
Finnley 603 0.31
Joey 506 0.30
Shea 332 0.70
Santana 373 0.30
Charleston 218 0.71
Kamdyn 402 0.29
Jean 257 0.29
Elisha 422 0.29
Chandler 914 0.29
Shannon 271 0.71
Aries 245 0.29
Dallas 1697 0.28
Arden 379 0.73
Ari 1016 0.27
Reece 649 0.27
Alexis 3623 0.73
Scout 313 0.73
Channing 368 0.26
Peyton 4719 0.74
Jesiah 249 0.26
Leighton 1015 0.74
Quincy 636 0.26
Sunny 280 0.75
Ellis 1326 0.25
Blake 4360 0.25

 

Read More: Unisex Baby Names Don't Stay Unisex

Comments

1
July 6, 2017 9:34 PM

The so-called spam filter won't let me post a link to the current blog article, because the link contains the article's title, and the article's title includes the forbidden character sequence S-E-X.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!! 

Character-sequence-based post-filtering serves one purpose, and one purpose only: it infuriates your users. That's it. It has never in its existence prevented a single spammer from posting a single piece of crap. It ONLY prevents legitimate users from posting legitimate comments.

I will never understand why certain sequences of letters have been singled out for discrimination - E-T-C, really? - but it's immaterial anyway, because if this is your IT department's idea of spam filtering, you need to get a better IT department; this one manifestly has no clue what it's doing.

2
July 7, 2017 12:20 PM

Thanks for the head's up -- obviously the string "sex" has to be accepted on a discussion of names! Something must have changed behind the scenes, I'll try to track it down. (But as for text filters not helping, you'd be astonished at what this comment section would look like without some pretty draconian anti-spam controls. The press of spammers is vast and relentless, and they're a moving target!)

3
July 7, 2017 1:54 PM

Hey Laura, while you're at it, can you please find out why e-t-c is forbidden? (Posts have been barred for containing the words stretch, Gretchen, Fletcher, and etc.)

As for the unisex names, this list proves that they're not my thing. But I was also wondering if these were listed in any sort of order because it clearly wasn't alphabetical nor by number nor ratio.

4
July 7, 2017 2:15 PM

Joan and Jean are unis.e.x (I tried replying with this word last night btw)? I do get the French male Jean with different pronunciation. Still the ratios for both of these names floored me.

 

5
July 7, 2017 2:57 PM

Jean makes perfect sense, but I can't wrap my head around Yael being a boy's name unless it's being used by, say Spanish speakers. To me, it is equivalent to naming a boy Miriam. Actually many names on this list confound me.

6
July 7, 2017 2:58 PM

Certainly Joan is male in some languages; see Miro. But in what language is Yael masculine? I too found some of the ratios perplexing.

7
July 7, 2017 3:55 PM

Karyn, I believe the list is sorted by "degree of skew", i.e. the absolute value of the difference between the girl/boy ratio and 0.5. 

Yael is masculine in the language of those who have no idea where this name comes from, can't be bothered to look it up, and make assumptions based on sound. Why such people are using the name on their babies is a different question entirely.

8
July 7, 2017 6:18 PM

Another thing I noted: that names ending in the non-standard spelling -yn are being given to boys as well as girls, sometimes more frequently to boys. I actually know a male Camdyn from a family that has an explicit policy of non-traditional spellings, including substituting z for voiced s. One name in this family is spelled so unconventionally that I would defy anyone to decipher it on the first try. Think that old trick of spelling fish as ghoti.

9
July 8, 2017 3:26 PM

Joan is male in Catalan (see Mirò), pronounced Jew-AN, more or less. I would be surprised if Catalans accounted for all the male Joans in the States, but you never know!

10
July 8, 2017 6:57 PM

I knew a Dutch man who came to the US after WWII, having been liberated from a slave labor camp by the Canadians. His name was Joan, but he quickly became John, because no one in his new home could relate to a male Joan. Apparently now they can.

11
July 8, 2017 11:22 PM

I always thought Yael was one of those clipped Israeli names that was popular with both boys and girls, like Tal or Noam?

Yael, I assume, would mostly be used as a nickname for any number of Hispanic names starting with Y and ending with -el. (Yaniel, Yadiel, et cetera.) The most prominent male Yael I can find is a Filipino singer whose name is short for Ysmael, which sort of corroborates that theory.

12
July 8, 2017 11:48 PM

Um, no. The Book of Judges recounts the story of Yael who killed Sisera, the general of an enemy army as he lay sleeping in her tent where he had taken refuge after his army was defeated. She fed him milk to put him to sleep and then drove a stake through him. This incident is referred to with approbation in the Song of Deborah, one of the oldest passages in the Hebrew Bible. Yael is derived from the word for ibex. Thus it is a very old name and one hundred per cent feminine.

Noam is the masculine form of Naomi. A number of Hebrew names have switched gender or become gender neutral in modern Israeli Hebrew, and Noam is one of them.

Most of the short gender neutral Modern Israeli Hebrew names you are thinking of are nature or virtue names. Names of prominent biblical characters like Yael retain their gender assignment--no girls named Moshe or boys named Devorah. There are biblical names that appear deep in a genealogical list and are otherwise unremarked that have switched gender.

Your guess that the current male Yaels are Hispanic nicknames looks plausible to me.

 

 

13
July 18, 2017 5:35 PM

Jessie a unisex name?   OUCH!!

It needs to be spelt JESSE for a boy (as in the OT, the father of David).  If only for the very good reason that in Scotland, if you call a boy a "jessie", you're calling him a "sissy" :-(   Och, rin tae yer mammy, ye big jessie!

Jessie is a girl's name, one of the traditional diminutives of Jane.

14
July 18, 2017 5:44 PM

I see the old standby Lee (Leigh) doesn't make the list.