Friday, August 12, 2011

True Unisex Names

Giving girls names that are traditionally boys' is nothing new, no matter how much modern parents wail about it (or wholeheartedly embrace it). I won't get into the sociological theories and quibbles about gender-bending names, but the truth is, once boy names "go girl", they rarely are suitable for boys after a generation or so. There are, however, some names that are truly unisex--they have been used both for boys and girls for several generations, or even several centuries in some cases. These are usually the result of two different names, from different sources, sounding the same in English, or a non-gender-specific name remaining extremely uncommon.

  • Arden (AR-den, English)--a surname with various geographic origins
  • Briar (BRY-ar, English)--from the thorny plant
  • Caelan (KAY-lan, Irish)--anglicized from the masculine Caolan ("slender boy") or the feminine Caoilfhionn ("slender and pretty")
  • Callisto (cahl-LEES-toh, Italian & Greek)--the masculine Italian and feminine Greek forms of Callistus ("most beautiful")
  • Carey/Cary (KEHR-ee, English)--from the surname Carey with many origins, or short for Caroline
  • Casey (KAY-see, English)--from the Irish surname O'Cathasaigh ("vigilant")
  • Christian (KRIST-yan, English)--originally unisex, it's only recently become overwhelmingly used for boys.
  • Francis (FRAN-sis, English & French)--"Frenchman"
  • Garnet (GAR-net, English)--from the occupational surname, or from the gemstone
  • Germaine/Jermaine (jur-MAIN, English & French)--the two most common versions of the Latin Germanus ("brother" or "seed")
  • Hanan (hah-nahn, Hebrew & Arabic)--a masculine Hebrew name ("gracious", sometimes considered the male form of Hannah/Anna), or a feminine Arabic name ("mercy")
  • Jules (JOOLZ, English)--from the masculine Julian or the feminine Julia
  • Kiran (keer-an, Indian [Hindi])--"sunbeam"
  • Lee (LEE, English)--from the English surname ("field")
  • Lior (lee-OR, Hebrew)--"my light"
  • Liron (leer-ON, Hebrew)--"my song"
  • Mika (MEE-kah, Finnish & Japanese)--a Finnish form of Michael, or a feminine Japanese name ("beautiful perfume" or "beautiful addition")
  • Merit (MEHR-it, English & Swedish)--from the surname Merritt, or from the English word, or a Swedish form of Margaret
  • Merle (MURL, English)--from the surname Merrill or the feminine name Muriel, or from the archaic English word merle, "blackbird"
  • Morgan (MOHR-gan, English & Welsh)--from the masculine Morcant or the feminine Morgen
  • Noah (no-ah, English & Hebrew)--from the masculine Noach ("comfort") or the feminine No'ah ("motion")
  • Rio (REE-oh, English, Spanish, & Japanese)--from the Spanish word for river, or a Japanese feminine name ("cherry blossom village")
  • Robin (ROB-in, English)--short for Robert, or from the songbird
  • Rowan (ROH-an, English & Irish)--from the Irish surname O'Ruadhan, or from the tree
  • Shea (SHAY, Irish)--anglicized from Seaghdha ("admirable")
  • Tai (TYE, Chinese)--"great"
  • Wyn/Wynne (WIN, English & Welsh)--from the English surname ("friend") or from the Welsh masculine name Gwyn ("blessed")
  • Yarden (YAHR-den, Hebrew)--anglicized as Jordan
  • Yuri (YOO-ree, Japanese & Russian)--feminine Japanese name ("lily") or a Russian form of George

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