Without doubt, one of the hottest naming trends of the moment is the choice of a unisex name. From Alex to Spencer or Angel to Skye, dual-gender names are often seen as a way of giving a stylish and modern name that breaks the boundaries a little, providing your child with an identity that lets them stand out from the crowd.
Many names have fluctuated between being predominantly male or female through the years – Ashley, traditionally a girl’s name is now on the rise as a boys name, whereas Reece is becoming increasingly popular amongst girls. And with more and more unisex names continually being added to the mix, if you are thinking of choosing a gender-neutral name, the options are getting bigger by the day.
Why choose a unisex name?
There are a variety of reasons you might consider a unisex name for your child:
- Unisex names are a great way to pass on a family name.
- You might have a name you have always liked and want to use it regardless of gender the baby is born
- You can choose a single name during pregnancy, without needing to know the gender
- A unisex middle name can provide a great alternative for them to their first name, if they want something a little different when they get older
Pros and cons of a unisex name
Choosing a unisex name carries a number of pros and cons that are worth bearing in mind.
- For girls in the professional world, having a name that could be thought of as gender neutral might give them an advantage on paper, as they can prove themselves on their work ethic and skill instead of being judged initially on their gender
- It is a name that they themselves will be able to pass down for generations to come, regardless of the gender of their children
- It steps away from tradition and gives your child something a little different
- Having to clarify your gender could pose difficult situations in a child’s life
- Choosing the wrong name could lead to schoolyard teasing, particularly for boys: for example, it is more accepted for a girl to have a traditionally male name such as Billie, than a boy to have a traditionally female name such as Vyvien!
- Though a name might be trending towards one gender when chosen, it could sway back to being the opposite gender by the time they are an adult, creating more and more situations where they have to clarify their gender in their adult life
Considering a celebrity unisex name?
Celebrity popularity is one of the many influences fuelling this gender-neutral trend. Cameron became popular amongst girls once Cameron Diaz shot to fame in the 1990’s, whilst Kelly became increasingly prevalent as a boy’s name after Kelly Slater emerged as a surfing legend. Taylor shot up in the choices for both boys and girls since Taylor Lautner hit our screens in Twilight, alongside Taylor Swift topping the charts. And now recently, Harper, traditionally a male name, is starting to trend for girls since Harper Beckham arrived.
TV characters have also contributed to the growing proportion of girls being given traditionally male names - Gilmore Girls with Rory, Grey’s Anatomy with Addison, Gossip Girl with Blair - whilst Quinn, another traditionally male name, is predicted to be popular amongst girls this year thanks to Glee success.
Many celebrity parents are also now opting for unisex names for their babies:
- Reiley: daughter to Stella McCartney
- Billie: daughter to Rebecca Gayheart & Eric Dane
- Bailey: daughter to Melissa Etheridge
- Dylan: daughter to Robin Wright & Sean Penn; son to Catherine Zeta Jones & Michael Douglas
- Angel: son to Kirk Hammett
If you like the idea of a unisex name, but are unsure about making the leap completely, there is always the option of going for a classic feminine name with unisex nickname – Charlotte becomes Charlie, Bernadette becomes Bernie, Samantha to Sam and Josephine to Jo.
Yet if you like the name, but are concerned about the ambiguous gender implications, many names offer a female/male spelling to clarify the gender - Sidney/Sydney, Robyn/Robin, Kerrie/Kerry… or simply make up your own!
Trending unisex names
|Top 30 unisex names from 2011:
Names becoming more feminine
Names becoming more male
Unisex names on the rise:
Need some inspiration?
If you love the idea if a unisex name but are still stuck for ideas, why not try our Baby Name Finder with over 30,000 baby names to search through. You can search by meaning, gender or origin, so you are sure to find that perfect name!
This article was written for Birth by Angela Sutherland
Read more articles on baby names here
Last revised: Tuesday, 10 September 2013
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.