I admit I went old-school with my kids and chose names that were unmistakably “boy” and “girl,” but I completely understand why so many parents opt for unisex baby names — and there are days when I think it might have been nice if I’d done it, too.
Some parents just like the sound of gender-neutral names, especially the shorter ones that have a snappy sound to them (Oak, Rory, Remy). Others give their kids Gaelic or English surnames that reflect their family heritage. Parents of girls may choose a name like Bailey, River, or Ellery simply to help their daughters stand out among all the Isabellas and Emmas they’re likely to meet at the park or in their playgroups.
Having a neutral name could also be freeing for a child in a time when the very nature of gender identity is being examined and redefined. The idea of humanity having both masculine and feminine energies is nothing new — it’s one of the Seven Principles of Hermeticism, a spiritual philosophy based on ancient Greek and Egyptian theology that promotes the quest to balance body and soul — but only recently has our society started to acknowledge gender fluidity.
So if you’re putting together your baby-name list, here are some of the coolest and cutest that suit boys and girls equally.
This nickname for Maximilian, Maxwell, or Maxine — all of which mean “the greatest,” according to Nameberry — is short, sweet, and sounds cool for any child.
Although Drew, the nickname for Andrew, was once solidly a boys-only name — its very meaning is “manly,” per Names.org – it’s now a great choice for girls, too, thanks to Drew Barrymore. In a total adoption of the gender-neutral trend, Jessica Simpson named her daughter Maxwell Drew.
The shortened version of Taylor (meaning, as you’d expect, “tailor,” according to BabyCenter) is a great unisex option for parents who want a fresher sound. It can also be spelled with an E, as in Taye Diggs (seen here).
Devin has a poetic ring to it, which isn’t surprising; BabyCenter said that it comes from a Gaelic word for “poet.” The site also reports that the name is a more popular choice for boys than girls, but still fitting for either one.
The name of a legendary Welsh sea god, Dylan was the 29th most popular boy’s name on Nameberry last year. But it can work for a girl as well; House of Cards star Robin Wright chose it for her now-adult daughter.
A perfect choice for Tolkien fans: According to BabyCenter, one of the origins of Avery is French for “ruling with elf-wisdom.” Avery currently holds the #14 spot on BabyCenter’s popularity list for girls. And for those of you old enough to remember Murphy Brown, you might recall that Murphy named her baby son Avery after her own mother.
Looking for something a little less overused than Jayden? This variation, from the Sanskrit for “victory,” according to Names.org, works for both boys and girls. As a twist, you could pronounce it to rhyme with “eye.”
Long before a certain Rolling Stone rocked the name, Jagger was an old English occupational word for “carter.” Although Nameberry reported that Jagger is used 20 times as much for boys as for girls, we might be seeing it more often in pink nurseries in years to come. Ashlee Simpson chose it for her daughter (seen here), after all.
Thanks to Beyonce and Jay-Z, Blue has potential to become the trendy color name for girls. For boys, it seems to be a more popular choice for a middle name (see: Alicia Silverstone’s son, Bear Blu, and Cher’s son Elijah Blue), but it deserves to get top billing now.
A variation of Elijah, Elliot means “The Lord is my God,” according to BabyCenter. The character of Elliot on the comedy Scrubs might account for the name’s climb in popularity for girls since 2000. Parents can add or subtract Ls and Ts, or shorten the name to El, Elle or Ellie.
From the English for “long field” or “hare clearing,” Harley has a decidedly cool edginess for either gender. Although its association with motorcycles made it a more masculine choice years ago, Names.org reported that of the 1,796 Harleys born in 2016, 1,422 were girls.
From the Celtic for “wise,” Quinn ranks a respectable 77th on the current BabyCenter popularity list as a girl’s name, and it holds the 280th spot for boys. It’s one of the trendy Irish surnames that sounds even better up front, and female Quinns on shows like Scandal, How I Met Your Mother, and Glee may have helped bump the name up the charts.
If you love to gaze at sunrises or a starlit night, then this “heavenly” name is a perfect choice for your little son or daughter. It’s less flower-child-y than other nature-based names, noted Nameberry, and if you’re a musical theatre buff, you know that Sky is also the Guys and Dolls character made famous by Marlon Brando. For a girl, the spelling Skye adds a slightly more feminine look.
Wylie (English for “from the tricky river”) has been gaining popularity for both boys and girls throughout this decade, according to Names.org. Still, it’s far less common than other names, so you can give it to your newborn without worrying that he or she will be one of a dozen Wylies in the nursery.
Are Samantha or Samuel (from the Hebrew for “His name is God”) on your baby name list? Consider this: The Social Security Administration, which tracks the 200 most popular names of each decade, reported that both names rank in the top 30 of the 2010s. If you know that you’re going to be calling your little one Sam anyway, why not cut to the chase and just go with the nickname?
Another totally-cute alternative to the full names Charles (from the German, meaning “free man”) or Charlotte. Celebs like Tiger Woods and Sarah Chalke chose it for their sons, but according to Names.org, it’s become even more popular as a girl’s name.
As unisex names go, Lee has it all. It appeals to nature-lovers (Names.org reports that it’s English for “meadow”), and has a light-yet-strong sound. Plus, it’s not super-trendy, and it doesn’t even crack the top 200 names of the last 17 years, according to the Social Security Administration.
For the parents who love both nature and gender neutrality, Kai has it all: fun spelling, nice sound (“kye”), and beautiful meaning: According to Nameberry, Kai means “willow tree” in Navajo, “sea” in Hawaiian, “forgiveness” in Japanese, and “earth” in Scandinavian countries.
Riley, from the Irish for “courageous”, was more than twice as popular for girls as for boys in 2016, according to Names.org. It’s still a strong choice for either gender, and has tons of spelling variations (Reilly, Rylea, Ryleigh, Rylee).
In another gender-switch surge, the English name (“from Pacca’s town”) is now way more popular as a girl’s name than for boys, reported Names.org. Use an E (as in Peyton) and it’s even more popular for both sexes, and a good choice for football fans who adore Mr. Manning.
Another case of a nickname getting the stand-alone honors, Alex, from the Greek for “defending men,” was called “one of the most evenly divided unisex names” by Nameberry. In other words, if you want to steer away from the more gender-identifiable Alexander or Alexis, Alex is the way to go.