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You may be expecting a blog review this week, and I hope you are not too disappointed that one isn’t appearing. The truth is, I feel quite burned out in regard to the reviews, and also think that several name blogs are currently in a state of flux. I hope that if I wait a few months, it will give new blogs a chance to catch up, and abandoned ones a chance to resume.
In the meantime, here I am starting yet another Category – this one, Your Questions Answered. I’ve noticed many interesting questions typed into Google, and although they got sent to my blog, alas, they received no answer here. So this is my chance to make good on their requests.
I thought I’d begin with a few of the many enquiries in regard to unisex names, since it is such a popular topic. I think it is worth mentioning that so far, nobody has Googled, “what is a male name I can steal for my daughter so there are no names left for parents of boys to use” or “how can I give my son a feminine name in order to scar him psychologically”, which is how some people seem to imagine the mental workings of the bestowers of unisex names.
The fact that so many people are so frequently searching suggests that far from using a unisex name in a frivolous way, a lot of thought is going into it. In turn, I’ve tried to put a lot of thought into answering them, steering a steady course between a laissez faire “anything goes” attitude, and a shrill denouncement of anyone daring to suggest that any name at all can be unisex.
In doing so, I’ve considered the origin, meaning, history, namesakes, and popularity of a name, both current and past. I’ve tended to go with the theory that surnames are unisex, unless they have a specifically gendered meaning, or are derived from specifically gendered personal names.
One thing I should make clear is that unlike some other countries, Australia has no naming laws in regard to gender. According to legislation, all names are unisex, and you are quite free to name your daughter Matthew or your son Chloe if you wish.
I’m presuming that when people ask if a name is male, female, or unisex, they are asking the community for their opinions on the subject. Of course, my opinions are just that – opinions. Feel free to leave your own opinions!
Note: Popularity of names based on Australian data.
I: BOYS TO GIRLS?
Henry as a girl’s name
At first glance, the idea of Henry as a girl’s name seems utterly potty. Henry is not only Top 100 for boys, but also a classic boy’s name which has charted for males for over a century, and been accepted as such for more than a thousand years. However, I do remember a Famous Five book where there was a female character named Henry – short for Henrietta.
My Verdict: A boy’s name, unless short for Henrietta
Luca as a girl’s name
Luca can be the Italian form of Luke, but also the Hungarian form of Lucia. In the latter case though, it is pronounced LOO-tsa, rather than LOO-ka. Luka seems to have a reasonable history of use as both a male and female name across a range of different cultures. I’d probably lean towards using Luka for a girl instead.
My Verdict: Both a boy and a girl name, but the two names are pronounced differently
Dylan as a girl’s name
Dylan was a Welsh god, so the name’s origins are masculine. Furthermore, Dylan has charted as a boy’s name since the 1960s, but never for girls. You could use the completely unrelated Irish surname Dillon though, which an English speaker would pronounce the same way anyway.
My Verdict: A boy’s name, sometimes used on girls
can Cadel be a girl’s name
It is a variant of Cadell, which for many centuries has been used and accepted as a male name. However, the explorer Francis Cadell has a few places in South Australia named after him – you could always claim Cadell as a place name. Place names based on surnames based on gendered personal names seem to be something of a grey area.
My Verdict: A boy’s name
can Myles be a girl name
In Greek legend, Myles was most definitely a man, and this name has a long history as a male name. However it’s now being used on girls – perhaps it seems like the “correct” form of Miley?
My Verdict: A boy’s name, currently being used on girls
II: GIRLS TO BOYS?
when can Hazel be a boy name?
I guess whenever you feel like using it as such. Hazel is a nature name and a surname, so seems quite unisex, and in fact does have some history as a male name. Having said that, it’s currently rising in popularity as a girl’s name, and has never charted for boys.
My Verdict: Technically unisex, but usage is almost entirely feminine
Can I call my boy Kaia
I think you can, but nobody seems to agree. Kaia seems unisex to me, but nearly everyone insists that it’s feminine. However, the name Kaya definitely is unisex, and worldwide seems to be used by more men than women. It’s used in so many different countries that it’s practically unicultural as well. I think I’d prefer to go with Kaya, although I don’t see why Kaia can’t be a variant of Kaya.
My Verdict: Your choice!
Noa as a boys name
Although Noa is a female name in Hebrew and Japanese, it’s also a Polynesian male name meaning “freedom”. There was a famous rugby league player from Fiji named Noa Nadruku, who played for Australian teams in the 1990s.
My Verdict: Both a boy and a girl name depending on origin
can Starr be a boy’s name?
Sure it can, it’s a surname as well as a place name. In fact, the surname seems to derive from a masculine first name which may mean “ox”, so if anything it’s more male than female. There’s a comic book hero called Starr the Slayer, a barbarian king. He seems pretty blokey.
My Verdict: Unisex, leaning towards male by history and meaning
is Kelly becoming popular as a boys name
Apparently not. It’s still charting as a girl’s name, although slowly declining, and has never charted as a boy’s name. I have seen some boys named Kelly though; it’s rare as a boy’s name, but not unheard of.
My Verdict: Unisex, but usage is almost entirely feminine
III: CONFUSED ON THE ISSUE
is Stacey more common as a boy or girl name
It isn’t common for either sex – currently it’s not on the charts at all. However, when it did chart, it was only as a female name.
My Verdict: Historically, much more common as a girl’s name
can a man’s name be Ashley or it that just a girls name
It can be used for both sexes. Famous Australian men named Ashley include tennis player Ashley Cooper, and swimmer Ashley Callus. It charts as both a male and female name, although as a female name it is still Top 100, and as a male name it is now in rare use. Historically it has been male for longer, but hit a higher peak of popularity as a female name.
My Verdict: Historically more common for boys, but currently more common for girls
Is Remy a boy name or a girl name
It’s based on the Latin name Remigius, so it’s usually a boy name. However, Kay from Nook of Names pointed out that it could just as easily be based on the female form Remigia. In its country of origin, France, Remy is occasionally used as a female name.
My Verdict: Most often a boy name, but can be used as a girl name
is Jade boy or girl
It’s a unisex name. Famous Australian men named Jade include soccer player Jade North and AFL player Jade Rawlings. Famous Australian women named Jade include swimmer Jade Edmistone and singer Jade McRae. Jade has charted for both sexes, but currently it’s Top 100 for girls, and in rare use for boys.
My Verdict: A name for both boys and girls, but much more common for girls
Is Darcy considered a boy or girl name
Ooh good question. Darcy charted as a unisex name from the 1900s to the 1950s, and then in the 1950s it became a male name only. Currently it generally seems to be rising as a female name and declining as a male name.
My Verdict: Originally unisex, and may be returning to that state
(Picture is of Australian androgynous model Andrej Pejic, who successfully models both male and female clothing)