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Unisex names

27 replies

timoteigirl · 25/01/2023 20:46

I get the feeling that many times girls are given a boy's name and the name becomes unisex although lots rarer for girls. Such as James or Cameron. However, what girls' names have been given to boys then eventually to become seen as unisex names? It seems to me it only works one way.

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CharitySchmarity · 25/01/2023 20:59

I wouldn't really call James a unisex name, or even Cameron in the UK, though it might be getting that way in the US. They're boys' names that occasionally get used for girls, and attract a lot of comments when they do.

I can't think of any names that were originally 100% girls' names and then became unisex or boys' names. I think Dale and Lee were used more often for girls in the 1950s than they were later.

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Longdarkcloud · 25/01/2023 21:07

I have long felt this OP. I’ve always been interested in names and have access to a lot of names over the centuries in the course of my genealogical research and I can’t recall a single name in this category.
Christian is an interesting example though I think it was used for boys way, way back and then it became unisex around the 15th - 16th centuries, and now it seems to be a male name — can’t think of female Christians.
The problem is that once a name becomes used predominantly for females it tends to become avoided by parents with sons , depleting the number of names suitable for boys — even a difference in spelling doesn’t seem to make much difference eg Lindsay/Lindsey.
Francis is still used butI think that’s because Frank is currently trending upwards but I can see that eventually being regarded exclusively as a girls’ name. Likewise Robin.

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OttersMayHaveShiftedInTransit · 25/01/2023 21:13

When names like Hilary, Evelyn etc become more common as girls names they stop being used for boys. It only seem to be those that are short for different long form names that stay unisex Chris(topher/tina) Alex(ander/a) Sam (uel/antha).

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MassiveSalad22 · 25/01/2023 21:15

Yep, that’s the way it is.

DD is 10mo and I specifically wanted a name that wasn’t a feminised boy name, nor ‘gender neutral’ which tend to be naturey (river, Rowan etc) Cut out a surprising amount of names!!

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AuntieStella · 25/01/2023 21:15

Shirley was a boys name (think Big Daddy) and so were Tracy and Hilary

Also Marion (John Wayne's real name, but I think he might have been a bit of an outlier)

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Outfor150 · 25/01/2023 21:15

Longdarkcloud · 25/01/2023 21:07

I have long felt this OP. I’ve always been interested in names and have access to a lot of names over the centuries in the course of my genealogical research and I can’t recall a single name in this category.
Christian is an interesting example though I think it was used for boys way, way back and then it became unisex around the 15th - 16th centuries, and now it seems to be a male name — can’t think of female Christians.
The problem is that once a name becomes used predominantly for females it tends to become avoided by parents with sons , depleting the number of names suitable for boys — even a difference in spelling doesn’t seem to make much difference eg Lindsay/Lindsey.
Francis is still used butI think that’s because Frank is currently trending upwards but I can see that eventually being regarded exclusively as a girls’ name. Likewise Robin.

Surely the girl name is Frances. The male name is Francis. Both are really old names.

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MassiveSalad22 · 25/01/2023 21:16

(And that’s not because I wanted a frilly girly name - didn’t want those either! - but it’s because you don’t need a boy’s name to be strong etc)

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AuntieStella · 25/01/2023 21:17

Ignore me - I got it upside down!!

I think Julian moved from female (of Norwich) to male

Can't think of any other off hand

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DerangedViper · 25/01/2023 21:18

Lesley can be used for boys and girls (though the girls version is often Leslie)

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timoteigirl · 25/01/2023 21:20

Lots of the names you mention are really old examples (never met a Hilary) - is there anything at all more recently? I'm thinking about this because in a way it also demonstrates the inequality. Boys names are seen strong and hence attractive to the girls by some parents yet there are very strong girls names such as Matilda (and Boudicca!).

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Rainydayparade · 25/01/2023 21:23

Our son has a unisex name that is predominantly used for girls, as a baby sometimes people would assume he was a girl by name alone. He’s very obviously a very rough and tumble little boy now and living up to his name (named after a classic action film character).

We like unisex names for boys and girls, including all the nature ones, River etc.

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Outfor150 · 25/01/2023 21:40

timoteigirl · 25/01/2023 21:20

Lots of the names you mention are really old examples (never met a Hilary) - is there anything at all more recently? I'm thinking about this because in a way it also demonstrates the inequality. Boys names are seen strong and hence attractive to the girls by some parents yet there are very strong girls names such as Matilda (and Boudicca!).

Matilda and Boudicca didn’t have a very happy time of it in the end. And Matilda’s reign was one of reasons a queen instead of a king was abhorrent in future centuries.

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OttersMayHaveShiftedInTransit · 25/01/2023 22:26

timoteigirl · 25/01/2023 21:20

Lots of the names you mention are really old examples (never met a Hilary) - is there anything at all more recently? I'm thinking about this because in a way it also demonstrates the inequality. Boys names are seen strong and hence attractive to the girls by some parents yet there are very strong girls names such as Matilda (and Boudicca!).

The problem is it's too soon to tell with something like James - it hasn't been taken up by many as a girl's name and it is the type of name (along with many the other names that I was at school with e.g. Stephen, David, Clare, Sarah etc etc) that aren't charting high at the moment so it's hard to judge if it is being dropped for boys because a handful of people have used it for girls or if it is just out of fashion at the moment.

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Laureatus · 30/01/2023 23:16

This is one of the reasons I love my name, Elizabeth, though it's often ignored or just used as a middle name. It's a strong name with many diminutives, or it can be a feminine name but not drippy; it's not a feminised man's name, and it's never been used by men, nor is there a true male equivalent. I really think it's the perfect name, and we nearly gave it to our daughter too, but I thought calling her after me was a bit much!!

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whatausername · 31/01/2023 00:50

AuntieStella · 25/01/2023 21:17

Ignore me - I got it upside down!!

I think Julian moved from female (of Norwich) to male

Can't think of any other off hand

I don't think historians are necessarily confident that that was the name she held before her life as a nun began.

@timoteigirl ITA with you. It says a lot about how society has and continues to view women.

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Theoldwoman · 31/01/2023 00:53

Ashley
Jordan
Eden
Bailey
Maddison
Leith
Jade

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Landndialamrhf · 31/01/2023 01:02

I absolutely love James for a girl
i know it gets a terrible response on MN. DH doesn’t want it because it’s a boys name
i think it sounds lovely though, soft and strong at once. A beautiful girls name. But I think it’s so established as a classic boys name that it would be a long time before it wouldn’t be used for boys too.

a pp mentioned Francis, I don’t think Francis is an issue because it’s frances for a girl and they’re slightly different pronunciations (fran-sis Vs fran-ses)

but you’re right even trying to google only brings up boy names to use for girls

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user1492757084 · 31/01/2023 03:42

Lesley
Lindsay
Shane

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CastleTower · 31/01/2023 07:15

This process (boy name > unisex > girl name) tends to happen to reasonably rare boys names. There were never that many boys called Hilary, Leslie or Stacey. For that reason, I can't see James ever becoming a truly unisex name - just too popular.

Sometimes unpopular male names become quite popular as female names, e.g. Evelyn. But they're rare male names to start with if you see what I mean.

Yes to Julian and Christian being unisex in previous centuries though, they're good examples. I think Clement and Peregrine were unisex too. Some of these got more feminine spellings, I guess (Julianne, Christiane/Christine, Clemence/Clemency).

Wilmot was a female version of William, but I'd expect it to be a boy's name now (if anything).

There's a 1940s film starring Dana Andrews (male) and Gene Tierney (female). No idea what is going on there.

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Pinkdafodils · 31/01/2023 15:48

Parents are much keener to give their girls a boys name than vice versa.

I know girls called Elliot, James and Cameron. There's also Jack the food writer who's a woman.

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timoteigirl · 31/01/2023 20:43

@whatausername I agree with you.
So parents give girls boys' names that are strong etc. but boys are not given girls' names that are soft and gentle....

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CC4712 · 31/01/2023 20:51

I know 2 adult, male Kims. One Kim and the other Kym. I always thought it was a female name beforehand.

Also know a teen girl called Dylan.

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StopFeckingFaffing · 31/01/2023 20:54

Kerry /Kelly are both more commonly used for girls but there are boys out there with both names

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ShillyShallySherbet · 31/01/2023 20:58

Morgan is lovely.

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Pinkdafodils · 31/01/2023 21:02

CC4712 · 31/01/2023 20:51

I know 2 adult, male Kims. One Kim and the other Kym. I always thought it was a female name beforehand.

Also know a teen girl called Dylan.

Kim is a very popular boys name in Korea

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