If you’re expecting a baby, or close to someone who is, baby names are probably something you chat about regularly because coming up with a list of possible monikers is fun.
But the truth is that whittling down a name for your baby can feel like a daunting task because there are lots of things to consider. Should you go with a family name? Something traditional? Or a name that’s unique? If you’re in a relationship, choosing a name can be even more of a challenge because you might struggle to agree on what to call your little one.
One thing we do know is that parents no longer feel constrained by gender norms when it comes to baby names, which is why gender-neutral or unisex names are becoming a more popular choice.
A gender-neutral, androgynous, or non-gendered name is a given name that isn’t specific to your child’s gender identity or the sex they are assigned at birth.
Gender-neutral baby names can be unisex, having never been associated with a particular sex and/or gender identity, or they may be traditionally masculine or feminine names that have lost their gendered association over time.
Unique gender-neutral baby names have soared in popularity over the last few decades. Every year the Social Security Administration, the independent agency of the US federal government that administers a social insurance program, puts out a list of the 10 most popular baby names split by gender. While gender-neutral names haven’t broken out into the top spots, they have risen up the ranks in recent years.
Further data collected by the Social Security Administration found that some names have become truly gender-neutral over time, with an almost 50% split in usage between babies assigned male or female. For example, only 5% of babies born in the US in 1901 named “Charlie” were girls. This leaped to 51% in 2016.
And this trend towards modern, gender-neutral baby names may be partly driven by the fact that many celebrities have rejected the notion that names have to be attached to a person’s sex or gender identity.
For example, “James” was ranked the number one most popular male name in the Social Security Administration’s most popular 100 names between 1921 and 2020. However, A-list couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively decided to call their daughter “James.”. And celebrity couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard chose the traditionally masculine name “Lincoln” for their daughter.
There are a number of reasons why you might choose a gender-neutral name for your baby. You might want to avoid stereotyping or expectations that are sometimes traditionally attached to feminine- or masculine-associated names. The name you opt for may be a family name, and it just so happens that over time it has become unisex. Or you may simply just like the name.
You might also choose a gender-neutral name for your child because you understand gender identity is fluid, so the name may give your child the freedom in the future to come out as non-binary or trans without changing their name if they don’t want to.
According to a study published by the LGBTQ+ charity The Trevor Project in 2021, of the 35,000 young people they spoke to across the US, 26% said they identify as non-binary. A further 20% said they aren’t sure or have questioned their gender identity.
These findings fall in line with analysis published by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. They found that an estimated 1.2 million Americans identify as non-binary. That’s around 11% of LGBTQ+ adults in the US in 2021.
So, here are some of the more popular and unique gender-neutral baby names (along with their meanings) that may spark some inspiration for naming your child.
- Addison — child of Adam
- Aiden — little fire
- Aspen — type of tree that quakes
- Alex — helper and defender of mankind
- Ali — high, elevated/champion
- Ari — lion
- Andie — courageous/powerful
- Ash — happy
- Ashton — ash tree
- Billie — determination and strength
- Blake — bright/shining
- Cameron — one with a crooked nose
- Casey — vigilant/watchful
- Charlie — free man
- Dylan — born from the ocean
- Drew — strong/wise
- Emerson — brave and powerful
- Elliot — the Lord is my God
- Ellis — benevolent
- Evan — God is gracious
- Frankie — from France/free man
- Gabriel — God is my strength
- Hayden — fire/hedged valley
- Harper — someone who plays the harp
- Hunter — one who hunts
- Jesse — God’s gift
- Jordan — to flow down/descended
- Jay — victory or triumph
- Jaydon — thankful/he will judge
- Jaime — supplanter/may God protect
- Jo — God is gracious
- Jude — praised
- Kyle — narrow strait or channel
- Keegan — ardent/thinker/small flame
- Kieran — dark
- Morgan — dweller of the sea
- Nat — gift of God
- Nell — shining light
- Parker — park keeper
- Ray — wise advisor or protector
- Reese — ardor/enthusiastic
- Remy — oarsman/remedy
- Riley — valiant/wood clearing
- Rory — red king
- Robyn — bright famous one
- Rowan — river in paradise/ little redhead
- Sam — told by God/God has heard
- Spencer — dispenser of provisions
- Sasha — defender of mankind
- Sidney — wide meadow
- Taylor — tailor/cutting of cloth
- Toni — beyond praise/priceless one
- Tyler — tiler/tile maker
- Max — greatest/great spring
- Marley — pleasant meadow
- Amari — eternal/immortal
- Amory — home strength/ruler
- Brooklyn — one who lives near a brook/a borough in New York City
- Campbell — from the beautiful field
- Clay — to stick together
- Easton — from the east town
- Eden — place of pleasure
- Ember — spark/burning low
- Grayson — son of the steward
- Grey — grey-haired/pleasant
- Harlow — from the rocky hill
- Indigo — blue dye from India
- Jace — the Lord is salvation/healer
- Kai — sea/shell/keeper of the keys
- Kit — carrier of Christ
- Lane — from the long meadow path
- Lennon — lover/dear one
- Marin — of the sea
- Micah — who is like God
- Monroe — from the river’s mouth
- Ocean — the sea
- Paris — great love
- Peyton — fighting man’s estate
- Phoenix — dark red
- Quinn — wisdom/chief
- Rain — advice/counsel
- Reed — the color red
- Rue — an herb/regret
- Sage — wise/healthy prophet
- Sawyer — woodworker
- Shae — hawk/full of majesty
- Sloane — warrior/raider
- Stevie — crown/victorious
- Storm — tempest/a storm
- Sutton — from the Southern homestead
- Scout — to listen/the first explorer
- Shiloh — tranquil and heavenly peace
- Valentine — strong and healthy
- Wren — small songbird
- Xavi — the new house
- Yale — from the fertile upland
- Yardley — fenced meadow
- Zane — God’s gracious gift
- Zasha — defender of the people
- Zene — beautiful
There are plenty of popular and unique gender-neutral baby names to choose from. And since associating gender with names appears to be becoming less important, more names may find their way into this category.
Parents choose gender-neutral names for lots of reasons — and you probably have your own for considering following suit. You might love gender-neutral options because they’re unique, or maybe you want to give your baby the space in the future to explore their gender identity without feeling pressure to change their name.
Whatever your reasoning, there are no rules when it comes to naming your baby. Just go with a name that you love!