Unisex Names

I think most people who hang out here know I’m not a fan of unisex names, preferring my boys & girls to be clearly marked. 😀  But I was really trying to keep my mind open for a lady on another board I hang out at and I actually came up with a few names (some unisex, some obviously masculine) that I could live with on a  girl.  Here are mine,


Finley – Now, Finlay is on my boys list (paired as Clarence Arthur Finlay) but Finlay/Finley could easily go the way of Francis/Frances for me. Why not? 

Connelly –  just a fresher “Celtic surname” than MacKenzie.

Leslie  –  has been girly for a fair while but has been fading. Almost feels fresh again, doesn’t it?

Grey – Colors are unisex as far as I’m concerned. And yes, I’d use Pink in the middle for a boy, if I thought I could get it past the other half (who’s even more of a stickler for ‘boys are boys, girls are girls’, than I am!

Ashton  – it was used on a girl in John Jakes ‘North & South’ Why not?

Greer  – Well, if Brooke Shields can use it on a girl and spell it wrong, why not spell it right on a girl?

Ashby  – Yet another surname name (Henry Turner Ashby). Feels a bit soft,  another why not?

Darren – Yes, it’s masculine but I cna’t be the only one who only thinks “bewitched” when I hear it. So maybe if it goes on a girl for a while, it’ll become fresh for a boy again somewhere down the road?

Ripley – Worked for Sigourney Weaver!

Yancey – This old school Southern sounding surname name sounds effeminate enough for a girl, to me.

Hollis – Another surname name. Sounds suitably girly for me. Anything that breaks down to Holly, potentially sounds girly to me.

Dilys – is an actual girls name that while soft, is sufficiently unfluffy for a girl.

Auden – yep. As in W.H. Auden  Why not on a girl?


So, there are mine, what are yours? And wondering, do you think any of these are alright?  Like I said, I’d rather have my girls and boys obviously so on paper. I don’t find waffling to be any sort of beneficial to anyone. It’s confusing to employers, annoying to the children themselves, occasionally and I just can’t figure out why anyone would bother. But I do try to keep an open mind,  hence this post!   Have at ’em!


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. JNE
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 14:35:39

    Oh, interesting… Like you, I prefer a girl’s name for a girl and a boy’s name for a boy. But then, they don’t have to be frilly to be a girl’s name or hyper-macho to be masculine for me.

    I agree many colors are unisex (pink – not so much – sorry! That’s like Peach, Lilac, Violet and girly, not for boys), but I do like Gray. That’s nice. I also like Blue. I don’t think I could actually give it as a first, but as a middle, I could see it on a boy, but even more on a girl. And also, middle name for me, Silver. It can break down to Silvie. I also worked with an Azure – she was a woman – and I think it’s more feminine, but it could work on a boy too, so maybe it’s unisex?

    I agree most of your names could work on a girl. I especially like Connelly. Quinn could also work as a more updated Irish nod.

    I find Darren awfully boyish. I could imagine a girl named Darren, but it’s one of those names that would certainly (I’d think) lead to confusion.

    I like Glenn and Harper too as unisex names go.

    A current hot trend that I’m not too fond of is all of the “Honor,” “Freedom,” “Justice” type names, but those are all unisex. Justice might work well on a girl… Justina and Justine are the girly versions, so why not Justice?

    I’d submit that nature names could go either way in many cases (like Robin and Sunny/Sonny). Laurel can be a girl or boy so why not Lynden? There a number of others, but I’m not sure about going quite the distance of Rain or Snow or River or Lake – well, maybe Lake… and maybe River… it’s a little granola, but it could be nice. And Ocean could even work then too?

    There are lots of other popular unisex names right now (or reasonably so: Taylor, Reese, Ryan, Cameron, Riley) and they’re fine but I still prefer an obvious gender.

    My preference would be to have a girly name with a boyish nn… Charlie for Charlotte, Frankie for Frances, George for Georgia – I like the juxtaposition of girly-girl and tom-boy and it gives more freedom to the child as she grows… but those are certainly not ‘unisex’….

    All in all, Connelly and Grey are my faves from your list… Not sure what you’ll think of mine 🙂 Faves from my list are Harper, Lynden, and maybe Quinn.


  2. Lola
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:04:12

    I love feminised boy names! Josephine, Frances, Philippa (which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea), Wilhelmina, Cecily, Henrietta, Clementine… I could go on for hours! I too think they’re the best of both worlds, for a girl.
    I think some virtues are more girly or more masculine: I wouldn’t use Verity or Amity on a boy nor would I use Noble or Justice on a girl. It’s just me being me, though, I wouldn’t argue with someone who thought differently!
    I like most nature names, it’s residue from Hippie parents, I was very nearly Sunshine, as it was one of the few things they could agree on. Mom finally nixed it because (in her words) “I couldn’t picture a 40 year old Sunshine”. Thanks, Mom!
    I know of a little Ocean, his Mom is an old Pen Pal of mine! Her name’s Raven so it just seems to fit, for her family. Nature names probably should be my next post, I like so many of them!


  3. Paige
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:11:46

    Dilys, Hollis, Auden, Greer (spelled this way, not the awkward IMO “Grier” way) and Grey are my favorites for girls from this list.
    I actually do know an Ashton who is a girl, and she carries it very well.
    I could see Darren on a girl, especially with the nn Darrie.
    Ashby is jazzy and cute, another route to the pretty nn Ash.
    Many parents choose decidedly unisex names like Jordan or Casey for their kids so they won’t be prejudged… but I think this just makes the interviewer or whoever is meeting the unisex-named-person for the first time a little nervous and not know what to expect. At least, this is how I might feel…
    In total, unisex names are alright, but I prefer clearly defined names, for the sake of the child mainly.
    Faves from my list: Rowan on a girl (I know some people HATE this, but I think it’s a little feminine), Jordan on a girl (for the river in the Middle East mainly), Harper on a girl, & Quinn for either sex.


  4. Lola
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 16:42:49

    Makes me nervous too. It’s why I can’t bring myself to use them. I just dug these up and suggested them to a lady elsewehre. The only “Unisex” names on my lists are nature names, and there’s not even a lot of those. Even the few virtue names I like are broken into girl/guy varieties. I suppose I just don’t like waffly anything! 😀


  5. JNE
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 17:43:23

    Neat that Justice is masculine for you – not that I’d use it, but it’s interesting to hear how things ring for others – for me it conjures the symbol – blind justice – the female with her eyes covered… also the ending -iss sounds girly to me somehow…

    And Paige, I agree with you – the logic of non-prejudice with unisex names is not really practical – I have been in that position and been worried about how to address written correspondence before meeting the person… If someone decides they’d like to be not obviously female or male ahead of time, there’s always the route of initials: P. L. Smith – no one can guess!

    I like this post – it’s very interesting – thanks, Lola!


  6. Lola
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 19:10:46

    Well JNE, I have a few names on my boys list with -us endings, which skews kind of feminine too!
    I hadn’t even thought of *how* to address written correspondence to a unisex named person, or how tough it would be if the person were an unknown! I know one Jordan girl and honestly, that’s the extent of unisex type named people in my circle of friends! I suppose I live a somewhat insular existence!


  7. Emmy Jo
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 01:21:10

    I generally don’t like unisex names much at all. The three I do like are:
    Harper (because of Harper Lee)
    Rowan (it’s an Irish boys’ name but also a tree)
    Linden (another tree name, with the cute nickname Lindy)

    I agree that nature names and colors tend to go either way.

    Generally when I hear of parents looking for a unisex name, I often suggest looking for an spare, straightforward, but clearly female name, such as Carmen, Maren, or Carys — they sound like they could be unisex, but they’re not.

    By the way, what would you think of Ashby on a boy? I’ve gotten feedback that it sounds too girly, but it doesn’t sound girly at all to me.


  8. Lola
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:07:39

    Ashby? I’d use it on a boy, in a heartbeat. I think Ashby’s really neat! I was inundated with Pokemon when it started (the boys were small when it first hit) So ‘Ash’ names are still very masculine to me, becuase of Pokemon’s Ash.

    I usually do the same thing you do, Emmy Jo, suggest the nion fluffy girls names. But this one was looking for absolutely something that would work on either, hence the list above.


  9. Emma
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 22:17:18

    Of yours, I think Connelly works but is gnarly, and find Hollis workable and a-ok. I have a really hard time with unisex names; most of them I can’t help but view as totally one gender or the other, and most of those are boys. It isn’t very fair, I don’t think, because every time I meet a female Ashley I can’t get over her name. (I do know a male Ashley though; he is called Ash exclusively and does not get teased.) A few I don’t automatically assign genders to, though, and I even have one combo that I can’t decide which way I prefer it (Izumi Bringpeace).

    Here is a reason for “why not” on a girl for Auden: the lovely Audeline! jk.

    Names on my PNL that I can’t pick a gender are Joy, Joyce, Blythe, and July. I also think Shannon feels pretty solidly unisex, and can see Shane working on girls. Linden is lovely on either gender, and while I assign Robin boyishness it’s charming on girls too. I think Winter works perfectly well on either gender. I have a huge crush on Albert nicknamed Abbey.

    Hmm. I like to make as many flower names as possible masculine, because I have weird feminist ideas about them – I think Rose and Lily are wonderful for boys. And Hyacinth. And Bluebell. And Pearl, as a middle name, aww.

    Ainsley works well either gender I think. As does Rain. I often flirt with Maria as a male middle name. I dunno.


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