Unisex Names

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Losing Their Identity

Name Dropping

When it comes to naming little boys, choosing a unisex name that is in fairly equal use for both genders, like Cody or Taylor, is often a safer choice than names like Kim or Kerry that have run their course as unisex names and are in stronger use for girls than boys.

These names, while once fairly strong in the unisex category, have become so widely used for one sex that they've lost their unisex identity. Think carefully about using them unless you're giving them to the gender that they've become most identified with:

  • Ashley: This Old English place name (it means “ash tree meadow”) was a favorite of Gone With the Wind fans. Who can forget the fair-haired Ashley Wilkes, the unattainable object of Scarlett O'Hara's affection? Because it ends with -ley, which is such a strong component of today's top girls' names, it's best left to the distaff side of the gender board.
  • Courtney: Still popular for both sexes, but becoming definitely more associated with girls, thanks to the feminine-sounding -ey ending. This was the 26th most popular girls' name in the U.S. in 1998.
  • Beverly: Another name with the popular -ley feminine ending, which makes it stronger for girls than boys. It might possibly be used for a boy as a transferred use of a surname as a middle name. No boy in his right mind today would want to be called Bev.
  • Douglas: A classic Scottish clan name that, interestingly enough, began as a girls' name. Now it's used almost exclusively for boys, I think because of its connection to such people as World War II General Douglas MacArthur.
  • Caley: The overwhelming popularity of this name for girls in all its different forms makes it a poor choice for a boy at this juncture.
  • Esmé: It's French for “esteemed,” and it was once a male name. It's rarely used today, but when it is, it's almost always attached to a girl, thanks to its feminine ending.
  • Dale: I guess it was Dale Evans who made this name more feminine than masculine. It's too bad, because this is a name with strength and it's been a steady, consistent boys' name over the years.
  • Jamie: This diminutive of James was once very popular for boys, but it's better known as a girls' name today, perhaps because of the TV show Mad About You.
  • Jocelyn: Another name that was strongly masculine but no longer is, although decent male pet names—Joss and Lynn—can be derived from it.
  • Jody: There was a too-cute little fellow named Jody on a fairly insipid 1960s sitcom called Family Affair, and I think he killed this name for all the other little boys who came after him. Today, if it's used at all, it's almost always for a girl.
  • Kelly: I went to school with lots of little Irish boys named Kelly, but it's almost exclusively a girls' name now.
  • Kendall: This name also had a good run as a unisex name, but is now becoming more frequently used for girls.
  • Kim: This was a fairly popular boys' name in the late 1950s and early 1960s and had a good run as a unisex name as well. It's not widely used now, but when it is, it's generally only for girls.
  • Meredith: Meredith Willson was the genius behind the Broadway musical and film The Music Man, but he's about the only Meredith that comes to mind. It's definitely a more common girls' name these days, although not widely used there, either.
  • Stacy: Yes, there's Stacy Keach, and he is a pretty virile guy, but I still think of this as a girls' name and I think most other people do, too.


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More on: Choosing a Name

excerpted from:

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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