Coming up with a name for your baby can be much trickier than choosing the right baby monitor or diaper bag. You want something that's not too bold or too old-fashioned, while at the same time, you want your little one’s name to be meaningful and unique. This is where gender-neutral names come into play.
Unlike some names that are traditionally just for girls or for boys, these gender-neutral options work for both. If you want a moniker that fits your little one, whether they are female or male, then consider one of these unisex options that is sure to please.
What's in a Gender-Neutral Name?
The origins of gender-neutral names are quite interesting. Some have always been unisex in nature, used for both females and males, while others started out as those associated with one single gender, only to evolve over the years. Regardless of the name’s origins, they generally fall into three main categories – vintage (or classic) names, modern names, and trendy names.
Excited to see some options that may bring some inspiration to your baby name search? Read on to see ten examples of baby names in each category.
When it comes to choosing baby names, there are a number of vintage options that are gender-neutral and unique. These unisex names used to be tied to a certain gender, but are now used for both. If you want to name your child something that will never go out of style, then these vintage options are the ones to choose.
1) Charlie – A shortened form of Charles, adding the “ie” at the end helps the name become unisex. This version has the same meaning as the full name, which comes from French and German and means “free man.”
2) Morgan – A name that has traditionally been unisex pretty much since the beginning, Morgan means sea protector and has Old Welsh origins. You might also be familiar with the strictly female version of the name that isn’t used much at all these days: Morgana.
3) Drew – Now, here’s a gender-neutral name. Two of the first celebrities that come to mind are Drew Barrymore, the female actress, and Drew Brees, the male football player. Both show just how unisex this classic name truly is.
4) Cameron – The first person that probably comes to mind is Cameron Diaz, the female actress, although Cameron Hayward, the football player, may pop into your head as well. Cameron is a well-established gender-neutral option for your child.
5) Jordan – Although Jordan can be a surname (think Michael Jordan) as well as a first name, one important thing to note is that it comes from the Hebrew word for the River Jordan, which flows between the aptly named country of Jordan and Israel.
6) Pat – The name “Pat” is usually the shortened form of either Patricia or Patrick, although many parents are skipping the formal version and just placing the abbreviated form on their child’s birth certificate.
7) James – Another form of this name, Jamie, is also gender-neutral. In the past, James used to be a male name only, although, thanks to Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, who gave their daughter the moniker, the full version is now unisex as well.
8) Austin – Like other city or location names, Austin has become a gender-neutral option. Even better, you don’t need to live in the great state of Texas in order to give your child the name.
9) Alex – In the past, Alex was used solely as a nickname for either Alexander (male) or Alexandra (female). However, many parents have foregone the longer formal version and simply named their child Alex.
10) Kyle – Traditionally, Kyle started out as a male name. But now, it’s a classic with gender-neutral overtones that can fit either a little girl or a little boy.
Falling in between classic, vintage names and the trendier options, modern names have a certain ring to them.
1) Taylor – Taylor started out as an English surname, referring to someone with the occupation of tailor. However, the substitution of a Y and some creativity have turned it into a very modern unisex name.
2) Spencer – Another name in the trend of turning a last name into a first name, Spencer used to be reserved for the male gender, although it’s now a popular unisex option.
3) Kennedy – While the first person to pop into your head is probably Kennedy, the female MTV VJ, this name has some classic origins as a last name. Now, it’s a pretty cool gender-neutral first name.
4) Avery – Originally a French last name, Avery (or Averie, depending on how authentically French you prefer to spell it) is a unique unisex option for your child.
5) Rowan – Pronounced Ro-An, this name comes from a classic Irish surname.
6) Emerson – Meaning “son of Emery,” the name Emerson is now a gender-neutral name that has become more popular in recent years.
7) Riley – There are two origin stories for the name – Old English for “rye clearing” and an Irish surname that’s a variant of Reilly. Either way, it makes a great first name for either a girl or a boy.
8) Dakota – Another place name (see Austin above and Brooklyn, below), Dakota, as in the state or the NYC apartment building, can be used for either gender.
9) Tatum – Tatum is an Old English name that stems from someone referring to a person who lived in the region of “Tata’s Homestead.” Now, it’s a delightfully modern gender-neutral name.
10) Shiloh – Coming from Hebrew origins, the name Shiloh means “tranquil.” The name is traditionally used for both genders, although the most well-known person with the name is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s daughter.
On top of the vintage options and modern gender-neutral names, there are also numerous trendy options to choose from as well. The main issue with these trendy names, like trendy diaper bags, is their popularity. If you choose one, your child might not be the only person in their class with that particular name. As long as this doesn’t bother you, then feel free to select one you love. These trendy names sound great with a more classic middle name, so keep that in mind while making your decision.
1) Parker – Parker used to be a traditional boy’s name, although around the early 2000s, it changed, and is now a solid unisex option.
2) Brooklyn – Using the names of places as children’s names is becoming increasingly popular. Like the others before it, the name can be used for both genders.
3) Ezra – Meaning “help” in Hebrew, Ezra used to be an old-fashioned boy’s name before becoming a trendy gender-neutral moniker.
4) Skyler – A more modern spelling of Schuyler (pronounced the same), this gender-neutral name comes from the Dutch, where it was the surname of scholars.
5) River – Now, here’s a cool name. Whether you think of River Phoenix or a flowing stream of water, the name can be used for any gender.
6) Briar – Many of the names on this list were once traditionally used for boys only before they became gender-neutral. Not so with Briar. This name started out as a moniker for girls, before becoming something that you could name any gendered child.
7) Peyton – Although Peyton used to be a male only (think Peyton Manning, the NFL football star), it now is a trendy unisex option. Like many others, this name started out as a last name.
8) Sawyer – From Middle English, meaning “one who saws wood,” Sawyer is also a common last name. Think of the Mark Twain novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In fact, naming your child Sawyer is a good way to pay tribute to this revered author.
9) Onyx – A color name that became a very cool child’s name, Onyx can be used for children of either gender. It goes well with a more classic middle name, preferably one that only consists of a single syllable as well.
10) Rory – Once known as a shortened form of Lorelai (ask the Gilmore Girls), this trendy name is now very gender-neutral. You’ll find both boys and girls on the playground with this gem.
In Summary: Picking the Best Name for Your Child
Remember that any name that you choose for child, even one that’s unisex, should sound good with your last name. Unlike swapping out a diaper bag, these names are a bit harder to change if you decide that you don’t like it.
Simply spend some time thinking about your options (and really, the sky’s the limit here, as you don’t need to pick one of our suggestions) and find a first and middle name that really flow with your last name. Also, the name that you pick for your little one is something that you’ll more than likely end up using frequently as they age (especially when they tip their toe into some mischief), so make sure you pick something that has a nice ring to it!