What do you think these names have in common?
Royal. Charlie. Salem. Skyler. Justice. Oakley.
Well, in the United States, all of these names are considered fitting for girls and boys. They are considered gender-neutral.
And modern American parents appear more willing than ever to consider the possibility of gender fluidity in their children.
Linda Murray is the head of BabyCenter.com. She told the AP [Associated Press], “This generation is truly interested in gender-neutral names.”
The Social Security Administration puts out a list of most popular baby names every year based on its registrations. Observers say the gender-neutral names have not made it into the top 10. However, they say such names are heavily represented in the longer list.
Younger parents seem especially likely to choose gender-neutral names for their babies.
Pop culture and honoring family or religious history are important to baby naming. But more and more parents are choosing names that can be used for either sex.
Some names just sound cool
Lori Kinkler, a psychologist in San Antonio, Texas, said she chose the gender-neutral name Riley for her daughter. She said if the 3-year-old does not identify as female later in life, she will not have to change her name. In Kinkler’s words, “I like that she feels she has options and knows she’ll be accepted by us no matter what.”
Pamela Redmond Satran is a writer of The Baby Name Bible and Cool Names for Babies. She also writes about the subject online and is a founder of baby name site Nameberry.com.
Satran says possible gender fluidity is not the only reason parents choose unisex names. She says, “A lot of people choose unisex names because they think they’re cool or they’re meaningful to themselves but they raise their kids in a very gender-specific way.”
Kirsten Hammann, 45, lives in the San Francisco Bay area. She and her husband named their daughters Teagan and Sigrid. She considers both names gender neutral.
She said, “Sigrid is technically a girl’s name but because it’s so uncommon in the U.S. it reads as gender neutral to most people."
She said she and her husband did not directly discuss gender neutrality. But she said she did think about the difficulties women face in the world.
In her words, “Whether we like it or not, names that skew a little masculine, or less feminine, are perceived as stronger, and I wanted that for my girls.”
River, Lake, Dakota and Blue
Pamela Satran said some gender-neutral names are part of other trends, such as choosing traditionally last names as first names, like Madison. She also noted gender-neutral names linked to geography and nature are another trend. Examples include River, Lake, Dakota and Blue.
Some countries bar unisex names by law, including Portugal, Denmark and Iceland. In Germany, local registrars decide if an unusual name would harm a child.
It is hard to say how such laws might affect Harper. It was the 10th most popular name for baby girls in the Social Security Administration’s 2016 list. For boys, it was number 793.
The top female name was Emma, followed by Olivia, Ava, Sophia, Isabella, Mia, Charlotte, Abigail and Emily. For boys, Noah was the top name, with Liam, William, Mason, James, Benjamin, Jacob, Michael, Elijah and Ethan rounding out the top 10.
Top 10 Gender Neutral Names
Nameberry.com examined the 2016 Social Security Administration data and created a top 50 gender-neutral name list. The most popular are Charlie, Finley, Skyler, Justice and Royal.
Rounding out the top 10 were Lennon, Oakley, Armani, Azariah and Landry.
Rebecca Connolly is a 29-year-old mother in the western New York town of Castile. She said she and her guitar-playing husband chose Lennon Wallace for their son, now 2 years old. Both she and her husband are fans of The Beatles’ John Lennon, for his music and his activism.
Connolly said, “As a child I felt bad for all the Taylor, Jordan and Jamies I knew, whose names didn’t identify their sex. By the time I was having kids, 50 percent of the little girls I met were named Riley, Avery, Logan, etc. And I realized all soft-sounding boy names are now considered unisex.”
Connolly also has a daughter, Lucille Beatrice, and is pregnant with a second son. She said their current leading choice for the baby's name is considered masculine. She would not tell what it is. But she said with the rising popularity of boy names for girls, it might be considered unisex by the time he goes to school.
That is fine with her.
“I plan to teach them there is nothing inferior about women, so sharing a name with them is not a big deal,” Connolly said. “Being called a girl is not an insult.”
I’m Caty Weaver.
And I'm Ashley Thompson.
The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
gender - n. the state of being male or female
option - n. the opportunity or ability to choose something or to choose between two or more things
unisex - adj. designed for or used by both men and women
cool - adj. very fashionable, stylish, or appealing in a way that is generally approved of especially by young people
specific - adj. relating to a particular person, situation, etc
skew - v. to change (something) so that it is not true or accurate
masculine - adj. of, relating to, or suited to men or boys
feminine - adj. of, relating to, or suited to women or girls
perceive - v. something that is currently popular or fashionable to notice or become aware of (something)
trend - n. something that is currently popular or fashionable
geography - n. the natural features (such as rivers, mountains, etc.) of a place
inferior - adj. of little or less importance or value