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It’s been more than two months since my first foray into answering questions on unisex names, and as I just started a new page for them, it seemed like a good opportunity for another lot. In the interval, the number of questions on this subject has piled up alarmingly, so it’s obviously topic de jour.

As with my first entry on this topic, I consider the origin, meaning, history, namesakes and popularity of a name to determine whether it’s male, female, or unisex.

Keep in mind that by law all names are unisex, and it is purely personal choice and social convention which dictate whether they are given to boys or girls. Unless otherwise specified, popularity of names is based on Australian data.

I: GIRLS OR BOYS?

Flynn as a girl’s name

Flynn is an Irish surname meaning “son of Flann“, so it’s a boy’s name.

Is Chase a unisex name? Are there any girls called Chase?

Technically it’s male, as the surname is an occupational one given to a huntsman, from the Old French for “hunter” (male form). However, you could argue that the name is given directly from the vocabulary word, meaning “to pursue”. I have also seen parents say that on a girl, Chase is short for Chastity. There are most certainly girls named Chase in the world.

Sutton as a girls name

There’s no reason why this surname can’t be used on either a boy or a girl, as it is taken from a common English place name meaning “south settlement”. In Australia, Sutton is a small village in country New South Wales on the Yass River. There is an American actress named Sutton Foster who has appeared in the show, Flight of the Conchords.

Peter as a girl’s name is that Aussie?

No, it’s not. In Australia, Peter is a classic name for boys which has never been off the charts, peaked at #1 in the 1950s and is currently in the 100s. It’s never charted for girls. You may be thinking of the female form, Peta, which was on the charts from the 1930s to the late 2000s. It peaked in the 1970s at #73, the only decade it was in the Top 100. It does seem to be a name from the Southern Hemisphere, as it only seems to have been popular in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Gunner as a girl’s name

Gunner is one of those rare surnames which can be taken as coming from a woman’s name, the Old Norse Gunvor, meaning “female battle warrior”. However, we usually think of it as coming from the occupational name for a soldier who manned the cannons during war. So I think this can be either a girl’s name or a boy’s name.

II: BOYS OR GIRLS?

Can Sky be a guy’s name?

Yes it can. In Greek mythology, Uranus was the god of the sky, seen as male compared to the earth goddess Gaia. So if anything, the sky seems to be masculine in Western culture. Sky can also be be short for Schuyler or Skyler.

Is Addison a boy’s name?

It means “son of Adam”, so yes it is a boy’s name. However, it is currently Top 100 for girls, and doesn’t rank for boys, so it’s much more commonly given to females. We had a celebrity baby boy named Addison this year.

Any dudes named Courtney?

A famous Australian one that springs to mind is singer Courtney Murphy, who was on Season 2 of Australian Idol. Another is the triathlete Courtney Atkinson, and Courtney Johns plays Australian rules football for Essendon.

Stolen boys name – Kelly?

I don’t think it’s possible to “steal” a name from one gender – it’s usually more about the name being rejected or neglected on behalf of its original gender.

However, let’s assume that “gender stealing” actually exists. For a name to be classified as “stolen” from the boys, it would have to be popular as a male name, and then show the name in decline for boys, accompanied by a corresponding rise in the use of the name for girls. That doesn’t seem to be case with Kelly – it has never charted as a male name in Australia, and has charted as a female name since the 1950s.

In the US, which has data going back to the 19th century, Kelly has been on the Top 1000 since 1880, and only stopped charting for boys in 2003. It began charting for girls in the 1940s, but as the name rose for girls during the 1950s, it also continued rising for boys.

Kelly for boys peaked in 1968 when it just scraped into the Top 100, which corresponds to it also hitting a peak for girls at #12. That doesn’t fit the profile of a “stolen” name – that fits the profile of a unisex name. Kelly for girls peaked again in the late 1970s, but by that time Kelly for boys was on the wane.

You could say that was because it was remaining fairly popular as a girl’s name – but that doesn’t explain all those years that both names grew in popularity together. Nor does it explain the many, many decades that Kelly spent as a male name only, free of all feminine interference, without ever gaining any level of significant popularity.

Having said that, Kelly actually is a male name, although usage is now primarily female. So whether it’s “stolen” or not depends on your perspective.

Chelsea can be for boys? Is Chelsea a boy name too? (asked multiple times in various ways)

There’s really nothing especially feminine about the place name Chelsea, which means “chalk wharf” and is the name of a football club, so by meaning and association this name seems unisex, and it has been occasionally given as a male name. In fact, the blogger at The Name Agender is a man named Chelsea, and he has written an article about growing up as a boy named Chelsea, as well as an interesting article on several men and boys named Chelsea, including a celebrity baby from last year.

III. JUST PLAIN CONFUSED

Is there more boys or girls named Taylor?

More girls – Taylor has always been much more popular as a girls name than a boys name in Australia.

Is Edith a unisex name?

No, it’s a woman’s name, and has a history of over a thousand years being given to females. In Australia it has only ever charted as a girl’s name.

Is Bailey a girls or boys name in Australia based on statistics?

Based on Australian statistics, it’s a boy’s name. It has only ever charted for boys, and never for girls.

Mackenzie boy or girl name?

It means “son of Kenneth“, so it’s a boy’s name. However, it has only ever charted as a female name, so it’s much more commonly given to girls.

I named my daughter Riley can I use a unisex name again?

Well of course, nobody is going to stop you. You can name your children exactly as you please, and there is no “One Unisex Name Per Family” law. But if you are asking for an opinion, this is mine:

If your next child is a girl, I would advise choosing another unisex name to match her sister’s, like Cameron or Alex. I’ve noticed girls often tend to get a bit jealous if one sister has a girly name and the other one has a boyish name – or at least it is made an excuse for sisterly jealousies.

However, if your next child is a boy, I would advise choosing a name that is unambiguously male, like Jake or Brendan. This is purely my own preference, but I think a boy should have a name that is more masculine than his sister/s.

Just for practical reasons, if you tell someone, “I have a daughter and a son; their names are Riley and Avery”, the person would be confused as to which one was the girl and which the boy, and it’s considered rude to ask.

Well, those are my opinions: what are yours? Do you prefer Edith for a boy and Peter for a girl? Has Kelly been stolen? How many dudes named Courtney do you know? And what would you name the siblings of a girl called Riley?

(Picture shows Katherine Hepburn in the 1935 movie, Sylvia Scarlett, in which Hepburn must disguise herself as a boy, despite the difficulties involved when it comes to public toilets).

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