Case study: Ashtons

Mar 8th 2006

Ponder this historical graph, then we'll get underway. (Pink is girls born, blue is boys.)

This is a tale of one name that has traveled a rare path over the past 25 years: from male to female, and back again.

Our story begins with Ashley, an English place name and surname which enjoyed a modest vogue as a boy's name starting in the the 19th Century. It was an elegant, mildly fancified choice which sank from view by the 1930s. It might have stayed dormant with the likes of Aubrey and Emery, but Ashley got a second lease on life thanks to a character in Gone With the Wind. The name hung around and began a slow climb through the 1960s and '70s, and then came the avalanche. The name Ashley became a runaway hit...for girls.

In 1977, 2,705 American girls were named Ashley. In 1987, the number was 54,815. Along the way, some parents of boys who liked the "Ash" sound took refuge in the harder, more masculine-styled name Ashton. But then, just as with Gone With the Wind 50 years before, the Civil War came calling via Hollywood. The tv miniseries "North and South" was a huge hit in 1986, featuring a scheming belle named Ashton. Now parents seized on the name as a female variant on Ashley. Out of nowhere, it became the 267th most popular girl's name of 1986.

Parents of boys reliably turn away from names that have tipped to the girls' side. But kindred names like Austin and Peyton started to soar, and Ashton held on strong enough for a savior to arrive -- on the tv screen, naturally. A young actor named Ashton Kutcher got his big break on the sitcom "That '70s Show" starting in 1998. By 2003 he was starring in movies, hosting an MTV reality series, and dating actress Demi Moore. His name was everywhere.

Before Kutcher's first screen appearance, more girls than boys were named Ashton. Today, new male Ashtons outnumber females by 13 to 1. How's that for a tribute to a guy's manhood -- turning an entire name masculine. At least until one of the girl Ashtons of the '80s hits Hollywood.


By rcfm (not verified)
March 9, 2006 12:59 AM

I'm thinking there will be a resurgence of Ashton for girls perhaps simply because it is a popular boys name. I'm just thinking about the current tendency to feminize names that are more traditionally boy names, a la "Avery," "Logan," "Aidan," "Jayden," "Dylan," etc.

By Helen (not verified)
March 10, 2006 1:13 PM

I agree. I don't think we've seen the end of the Ashton story.

By Abby (not verified)
March 12, 2006 10:47 PM

My husband's grandfather, born around 1900, was named Ashley - so there are boy and girl Ashleys, as well as a male Ashton, that came from his name. I don't think it has anything to do with the popularity of the name, though. It's just recycled, in a sense.

By Ellen (not verified)
March 13, 2006 3:07 PM

Spelling matters: since 2000, Ashtyn has been on the charts as a girl's name. So whereas the boy's name Ashton has really taken off, Ashton/Ashtyn for a girl hasn't dropped quite as much as the chart suggests.

It may also be that the popularity of the "-lyn" names has caused parents to pick a slightly girlier version of the name for daughters. Ashlyn entered the girls' charts at #928 in 1986 and has climbed steadily to #131 today.

By Ted (not verified)
March 13, 2006 6:43 PM

I was wondering if there is any data documenting the use of family names? I would also like to know how common it is for a baby to be named after the mother?

By Paz (not verified)
March 13, 2006 8:13 PM

I always wondered about the name Ashton. It used to be one of my top 5 favorite names for boys about 5 years ago. The few times I saw the name posted on baby name message boards back then, many would people comment that it sounded so feminine because it because with the "Ash" sound. That never made sense to me because it's usually the ending sounding of a name that determines if it sounds masculine or feminine. I didn't know about the "North and South" character before, but that would probably explain a lot of it.

By deandre (not verified)
March 16, 2006 8:04 PM

my mom wants a baby named kalya
but i want a name that starts with a k to.iwant a better name


By DEANDRE (not verified)
March 16, 2006 8:06 PM



By DEANDRE (not verified)
March 16, 2006 8:07 PM


By Claire (not verified)
March 19, 2006 12:35 AM

Deandre, here's my thoughts:

It is not clear who is pregnant here. You say your mother wants a baby named Kayla. I think if she would like to become pregnant, that's her business, and not necessarily yours. If you're the one pregnant, well, based on what you've written and how you've written it, I wonder how old you are.

If you are relative young, and perhaps unmarried, then I highly recommend giving your child a standard issue, classic name. Don't try to be "unique", as this will brand your child as being low-class, and your child will have enough things to overcome as it is.

If you really want a "K" name, then perhaps you should go with Katherine. This is a sturdy classic (in the top 100 for the last 100 years), and has lots of nicknaming possibities. The baby might start off as a little "Katie", but be an artist under "Kat" or a CEO with the whole thing written out.

By ANDREA (not verified)
March 24, 2006 12:41 PM

A friend of a friend recently gave birth to a baby girl and called her adelaide ?? Its a bit stupid if you ask me she claimed she wanted something different and that lucy and emily etc were far too boring. Most of her single mum friends also have similary stupid names for their children such as teegan jayden jacade etc etc.

By Kate (not verified)
April 19, 2006 10:46 AM

I think Adelaide is beautiful - its traditional and historical and not used too much these days.

I'm afraid I hate made up names like Teegan, Jayden and Jacade. They just sound ugly, common and ridiculous. (apologies to antone with children of those names!)

By Kristin (cousin of a Tegan) (not verified)
April 22, 2006 6:59 PM

Please remember that some names that may seem made up like Teagan/Tegan may just be from a differant culture. Tegan is Welsh/Celtic/Gaelic for fair/attractive. Popularity, for that matter, American popularity, isn't everything. (Though I really do love the site!)

By Adelaide (not verified)
April 25, 2006 10:27 AM

Adelaide is an old Victorian name. It is not a new "made up name." As classic as they come.

By meg (not verified)
May 9, 2006 9:37 PM

I like the name Adelaide. I had a little girl just a week ago, and Abigail was what we were thinking of naming her, but so many people have said "My sister just had a little girl named Abigail..." or "My neigbor just named their little girl Abby... ", that we have since turned away from that name. Adelaide is a similar name, but not as common. I think it's beautiful.

By Christiana (not verified)
May 15, 2006 6:47 PM

Adelaide is an old classic - Guys and Dolls secondary female lead was named Adelaide (the reason my husband doesn't like it) and there was a talked about character from Anne of Avonlea (where I got it from) who had that name. It means "Nobel or Kind" so I can't see why it would be a bad thing.

By julie (not verified)
May 25, 2006 1:38 PM

Well my daughter is called Tegan just because its different doesnt mean its made up i live in london and its not that uncommon

By Adelaide (not verified)
August 1, 2006 1:58 PM

I am called adelaide, and for short call myself adele...I was teased for it in primary school but in secondary i loved it cuz i stood out and no1 has heard of it...

Its interestin,unique and a conversation starter...and instantly its fun..

take care xx

By Eleni (not verified)
August 29, 2006 5:36 AM

Adelaide is one of the best old names out there. I love it. Nothing weird or made up about it. It comes from a distinguished old family, too: related to Alice and Adele and Adelina, Adeline, Alicia.

Adelaide has nothing in common with the trendy names you mention. You just don't seem to like it, which is fine.

By ashton .w. (not verified)
September 26, 2006 5:05 PM

hi everyone

By Jacade (not verified)
October 11, 2006 2:08 AM

Jacade is not a made up name either.Growing up, I was told it was Indian. Many people just don't know to pronouce it... Ja Kay Dee... Like Katie with a Ja in front of it. Anyway, just a heads up =]

By Candice (not verified)
January 17, 2007 5:20 AM

My daughter's name is tegan- it's hardly made up. I think it as beuatiful as she is.
Perhaps the original contributor would benefit from reading Crysanthimum- a book about how it feel to have ones own name called "ugly"...all language is "made up" after all...your own name was at one time "made up"

By kristi (not verified)
March 29, 2007 2:51 PM

Deandre- Are you the big brother? I'm probably too late to suggest a baby girl name, but Kalya actually sounds really good with your name. Something like Kaneisha or Cassandra would be nice, too.

By Jane (not verified)
July 1, 2007 11:59 PM

I love the name Teegan! But for a boy, not a girl

By jasmyne (not verified)
October 29, 2007 3:36 PM

Adelaide is the name of a German princess, a city in Australia (named for the princess) and was also a character in Anne of Avonlea. It is German in origin and means "kind" and noble". It was popular during the Victorian era but has since declined. Obvious nicknames include Addie, Addy and Adele.

By jade2011 (not verified)
November 10, 2007 12:11 PM

I have a daughter who was born in 1981 and I named her Bekka Tegan and we call her Tegan,so it is hardly a new made up name,I am in the USA and I hear it is very common in Australia as well.

By Bailey (not verified)
November 22, 2007 2:11 PM

I am a HUGE fan of the North and South 1985 miniseries. When I have children, I'm going to name them Ashton Lorraine, Brett Katherine, Augusta Marie, Constance Elizabeth, and Madeline Alexandra after the female actresses.. and if I have boys they'll be named George Christopher [a male character and the actor's middle name] William Parker [a male character, and the actor!], Orry Nicholas [another character] and Charles Andrew.

:] Yeah I love North and South.

By Aussie (not verified)
January 9, 2008 10:17 AM

Adelaide is a classic old name. Think Victoria, Beatrice, Madeline, Alexandra and you're in the right ballpark. It is not super popular in Australia (due to the fact a city here is named after the German Princess of that name) but it's not considered red-neck or made up - just very very classic and elegant.

Tegan was popular here in the mid 90s.

By Anjelica (not verified)
September 26, 2011 11:38 PM

I most certainly think that Ashton is a girls name and would never think of using it for a boy!

Ashton sounds too pretty for a boy. Ashton Kutcher's real name is Christopher! Everyone copies him ... Ha ha ha

By Anjelica (not verified)
September 27, 2011 5:02 AM

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