Every name comes with gender associations, but those perceptions change over time — sometimes dramatically, as shown by a new study of shifts in unisex names.
“Over the past 10 years, we found a number of names that flipped from being mostly male to mostly female and vice versa,” said Pamela Redmond Satran, editor and cofounder of nameberry.com.
The top 10 results:
1. Quinn – 28% to 80% girls
2. Peyton – 45% to 77% girls
3. Leighton – 27% to 74% girls
4. Lennon – 20% to 65% girls
5. Sutton – 26% to 64% girls
6. Kyrie – 14% to 91% boys
7. Raylan – 44% to 91% boys
8. Bentlee – 32% to 84% boys
9. Tru – 47% to 70% boys
10. Milan – 36% to 64% boys
To be considered unisex by nameberry.com, a name must be used by at least 10% of the minority gender. As with other name dynamics, a celebrity, a TV or movie character or a star’s baby name factor significantly shifts.
Quinn, a fictional high schooler played by Dianna Agron on “Glee” explains the nearly 300% bump in the name being used for girls. “It’s totally about that character,” Satran told Today.com.
“Gossip Girl” actress Leighton Meester explains the boost from 27% to 74% for girls for her name going girlier. And you can thank Tony winner and “Younger” star Sutton Foster for her role in the game of the name. Sutton used to be 26% for girls, now it’s 64%.
Peyton and Lennon, once mostly male, are now mostly female. Meanwhile, NBA star Kyrie Irving is the reason his name climbed from 14% for boys to 91%. “Going over 90%,” said Satran, “it’s not even a gender-neutral name anymore.” Call it a name slam-dunk.
By and large, Satran and company found that it was more common for mostly male names to become predominantly female. Why? “It’s sexism,” she said. “People still believe that it’s a positive thing for a girl to be boyish but not for boys to take on feminine traits.”
The main takeaway from the findings for moms and dads is that when it comes to names, gender isn’t set in stone. “Even names that are gender-neutral can veer in one direction over time,” said Satran, “and then back again.”
That’s something to consider for any parent, especially ones who embrace name neutrality in the same way they might choose yellow, green, white or gray for the baby’s room over the traditional blue and pink.
“Over the past decade we’ve become more conscious of the fluidity of gender,” said Satran. “In the same way, we’re letting go of names being all boy or super feminine. There are more than 50 shades of gender, and names reflect that.”