How to Find a Boy Name that Won’t Become a Girl Name

Are there any boy names out there that aren’t at risk of becoming girl names?

This may not be the answer you want to hear, but: nope. There’s simply no way to guarantee that a boy name won’t suddenly become trendy for girls. (A movie mermaid was all it took for the name Madison — a name with the word “son” right in there — to become a girl name.)

No boy names are girl-proof, but some are certainly girl-resistant. Which ones? Here are five types I’ve come up with:

1. Boy names with unstylish elements, such as “bert” and “stan.” If a boy name isn’t fashionable enough to be popular for boys, it shouldn’t be too tempting to use for girls either.

Albert
Archibald
Bernard
Bertrand
Donald
Irwin
Gilbert
Leopold
Maynard
Rudolph
Stanford
Woodrow

2. Boy names with few vowels. They tend to sound more masculine than other names.

Bryant
Chad
Charles
Clark
Desmond
Grant
Kenneth
Mark
Ralph
Scott
Seth
Trent

3. Boy names with length. Most of today’s popular unisex names stop at two syllables.

Abraham
Alexander
Augustine
Balthazar
Benedict
Barnaby
Benjamin
Emmanuel
Ferdinand
Mortimer
Reginald
Sylvester

4. Boy names with hard endings, such as D, K and T. Many of the boy names being used by girls end with softer consonants like L, N and R.

Bennett
Caleb
Conrad
Craig
Derek
Emmett
Garrick
Isaac
Jared
Patrick
Stuart
Wyatt

5. Boy names with well-known feminine forms. If there’s a readily available girl-version, doesn’t it seem silly to use the masculine form for a female?

Brian (Brianna)
Carl (Carla)
Erik (Erika)
Gerald (Geraldine)
George (Georgia)
Henry (Henrietta)
Joseph (Josephine)
Martin (Martina)
Paul (Paula)
Robert (Roberta)
Theodore (Theodora)
Victor (Victoria)

As I mentioned, there’s never a guarantee. (A female Scrubs character is named Elliot — will that be the next to go? How about Blake, thanks to Blake Lively?) But I think boy names that fit into the above categories are relatively safe bets.

Are there any other types of names you’d add to the list?


33 thoughts on “How to Find a Boy Name that Won’t Become a Girl Name

  1. This is a lovely list ^^ Too many good boy’s names are jerked over to the girls, this gives me hope the boys will still have some good ones in times to come…
    Another group I thought of is names with deep sounds, or a distinctive o-sound… Like Owen, Oliver, Soren, Theo, Coen, Bram, Drummond, and probably some more… People generally tend to think of o as a masculine letter, a being the female equivalent ^^
    I’m a big fan of feminine-sounding boys’ names though, like Ambrose, Florian and Tobiah…

  2. I agree with the O sound/deep sounding names being “safe”. I think about names like Roy and Overton (both family names for me).

    Another thing I was thinking about–If a name has been a last name that has any sort of crossover potential, though, it’s pretty much doomed. I mean, last names like Birkenmeyer or Stefanski are probably not going to be first names at all, but last names like Donnelly or Jameson do cross over, and they’re bound to be girls names fast once they do. Blake is a great example. It’s my maiden name, in fact, and I always wanted to use it for a boys name but it’s gotten to the point that it’s too feminine. Just weird.

  3. Maybe add a category of the older generational names that were so commonly used for men: John, Dick, Tom, Harry, Rob, Eugene, Edward…

  4. i have a 9 month old boy and i have always loved the name Blake. i know people are using it for girls but it still sounds like a boys name to me so i used it. i dont care what other people are doing its masculine and I still love it.i Have to admit I like some of the boy names on girls. I think we can share.

  5. I was born in September 1972. Kiley. Boy. Named after Actor Richard Kiley. Was very original boys name. I never knew any other Kiley’s growing up which was cool. Now I suppose it is officially a girls name, and that sucks. I’ve seen it spelled Kylee Kylie Kilee Kileigh and probably 10 more different mis-spellings. The thing is never to let name issues get you down. Wife is pregnant now and we’re going through naming ideas. There is no way to forsee a boy name becoming a girl name or vice versa. If you pick a name YOU like for your child, It shouldn’t matter. Why can’t someone name there daughter Johnee Mae or Tommie Elisabeth? Those boy names could Go Girl. My baby naming advice: Be smart, Being creative doesn’t mean changing an i to y. I saw a girl the other day named Kylee and I was in a fun mood so I’ll told her she was amed after a boy!

  6. I pretty much agree with all the names on your list, apart from maybe Irwin. That sounds like it could be a girls name to me.

  7. I’ve overheard people saying that they’d use two of my son’s names for girls: Ciaran and Simon. It kind of makes me irrationally pissy, since there are perfectly good girl versions of those names already!

    Then again, I guess my parents gave me a name that used to be okay for boys but now isn’t.

  8. To Tracy: I think that your name may be one of those redeemable for the boys since it has fallen in popularity for girls, much like Kelly or Robin. (To learn more search for these names at appellationmountain.net.)

  9. 1 would be austin. like THAT is ever gonna be a girls name. also justin and dustin. ethan, nathan, anthony, alan, matthew, yada yada yada

  10. L.J. – Austin ranked nationally for girls in both 1993 and 1994. The trend fizzled out, so Austin remains boy name, but it might not take much (a movie? a pop song?) to get it going again.

  11. Great post! Some phonetic terminology for better precision: what you describe as “hard” consonants are known as “stops”: those in which the airflow from the lungs is completely stopped for an instant, by the tongue contacting the palate, or the lips completely shutting. What you describe as “soft” consonants are known as “sonorants”, and are produced without causing turbulence in the airflow, whether by letting the air out through the nose (N, M), or letting it go around the sides of the tongue (L).

  12. Thank you for the terminology, Neal.

    And thanks to everyone else for sharing your thoughts on this. I’d love to make the list longer, and you guys are coming up with some great ideas. (Like boy names featuring long O’s — that one is intriguing.)

  13. To the tune of Johnnie Mae etc…When I worked at a bank there was a woman named Johnnie…and it was her legal name as banks are picky bout that kind of thing. I have also known women named Wallace, Walter, Willie, Eddie (she pronounced it Edie, but her father wanted a boy desperately and he said it Eddie, like Murphy), I realize that these kinds of namings are few and far between…but I will say one more thing, all of these women were in their early 50’s or older.

    @ Jamie, all those names have female counter parts, Jane, Bobbie, Tomasina, etc…there was a show in the 80’s or 90’s about a bunch of daughters that all had old school feminized men’s names but were called Georgie, Teddy, Frankie, etc

  14. My aunt’s mother-in-law’s name was Johnnie Dakota. I thought it was unusual for a girl to be named Johnnie, but back around 1915 or so it was on the popularity charts for girls. It wasn’t nearly as unusual as I had thought.

  15. I’ve seen a couple of fictional girls with the name George (which also happens to be my name), but have not to this day seen a girl with that name (I am male).

  16. I think it’s very … significant … that no name can be used for a boy if it’s a girl’s name, but tons of people have no trouble going the other way. Americans have pretty much lost Robin and even Hilary…

    Nancy’s right saying it only takes on famous woman to change the name: Look at Florence, singlehandedly jacked by Florence Nightingale.

    I would think Biblical names like John, Thomas, Michael (Miss Michael Learned didn’t shift that one an iota) are safe.

    But more interesting is why a name can’t be unisex? Why are people so afraid of their boy having the wrong kind of name? This isn’t a slam – it’s a serious question for people to think about. Why is a name “doomed”? Why can’t it stay a boy’s name once it’s popular for girls?

  17. To: The Ridger
    The question to that is simple. Humans are cruel and boys get made fun of A LOT in school if they’re name sounds girly or is unisex. I have a cousin his nickname was Jaime but kids made of him so now he LOATHES being called Jaime. It is always James.

  18. To Hannah: I’m a guy who doesn’t have any problems with (and in fact likes) his unisex name (my name is Kelly). I also wouldn’t be afraid to conisder such a name for my son (although I’m not a fan of juniors so it probably wouldn’t be after myself). As you can tell if you look around at my blog these days there is much less taunting about boys with unisex names then there used to be (teasing about other things is a different story though).

  19. I forgot to add to my last post what I said is a generalization, but I think these days unless the name’s popularity is very lopsided in favor of the girls (e.g. Ashley, Madison) I think that a boy will likely be able to carry it okay. I do recommend a middle name that is more clearly masculine so he has more options.

  20. Sorry for my third post today, but The Ridger mentioned Robin; I think that one may be redeemable since it’s much less popular on girls than it used to be (and is still at least unisex in many people’s minds).

  21. The Ridger: In short, sexism. It’s the same reason women can wear men’s pants but men are ridiculed for wearing women’s pants or skirts. It’s the same reason tomboys are regarded with less worry than effeminate little boys. It’s the same reason male characters on TV tend to outnumber female characters 3 to 1, and the same reason people tend to judge a room half full of men and half full of women to have more women than men in it. To be masculine is to be better, or at least to be the default. To be feminine is to be Other. Therefore it’s understandable in our society for a girl to have a name reminiscent of masculinity but not for a boy to have a name reminiscent of femininity–because being a boy is better than being a girl.

  22. Sam are you a boy or girl? Sound like a girl who wishes she was a boy. Women in America have more artistic freedom with their names, clothes, jobs, and personalities. They are favored in America, and this is shown by our culture, the media, and the legal system. It was better to be a boy for the last thousand years but all that is but a memory. You must be in your 50s to say what you’ve said because the tables have certainly turned in the last few decades.

  23. @ Dave – You’re right; those who think that males have it better (in the Western world) are probably older. As I have mentioned at my blog, today’s young adults know that’s not always true. Today’s young men are from my experience not as uptight about feminine qualities in males as their parents are/were (as I’ve mentioned in posts at my blog describing how the unisex-name-for-boys phobia, although still present, is declining as members of the Millennial Generation start having children).

    I like it when parents are willing to consider a softer or unisex name for a boy; to me it comes across as parents who won’t try to constrict their son’s gender roles as a lot of parents do (e.g. if he wanted to be a ballet dancer they’d be supportive of those kinds of pursuits).

  24. It’s not “better” to be a woman in this country–it’s really not.

    Women’s rights have increased exponentially in the last fifty years or so, but women still make less money than men for the same job, and while numbers are increasing, men still dominate a lot more fields than women. America has never had a female president, despite the numerous other “western” countries which HAVE had a female leader. This year, Illinois had its first female competitors in its state wrestling tournament.

    Women are allowed more creativity, yes. But men still command more respect, automatically, especially white men. Things ARE changing, but we’re not equal yet. A woman who sleeps around is still a slut while a man who sleeps around is still a stud. Just something to think about.

  25. I think that any boy who grew up being called “Balthazar”, “Maynard” or “Bertrand” would be made fun of much less than if he had a unisex name, even if it was slightly on the more feminine side. Studies have shown that kids with “creative” names are more likely to commit felonies; this is linked to discrimination in the workforce. If you’re really that concerned about your son being “masculine” and “a real man” that you would give him a name that hasn’t been seen since the third century over one that a girl or two in his school might have – and probably with a different spelling – , I’m going to say you may need to put your priorities in order and also be a little more open-minded.
    I

  26. Excluding some classic names, it’s hard finding a boy name that’ll stay a boy name. I feel like the risk is always going to be there. Emory is being turned into Emery. Caleb into Kaleb…Morgan, Tyler, Shawn, now more “feminine”… It’s just unfortunate for all moms who like these boy names but hesitate to use them. It’d be tough giving your son the name Hayden, and then finding out he has 2 girls in his class named Hayden. There are so many pretty girl names, I wish it’d become trendy to choose those again.

  27. Lol… I’m a girl named Austin and honestly I’m pretty feminine and definitely get a lot of attention from guys regardless of my name. It doesn’t make me “butch” or anything less than a girl, plus a lot of people think it’s pretty neat…

  28. @ Sam
    I disagree that it’s more acceptable for a girl to have a boys name than a boy to have a girls. I stumbled onto this thread because I was wondering how the child actress Johnmy Sequoyah came to have a boys name, whereas I can’t think of a single instance where I have thought it odd that a boy has a unisex or predominantly feminine name. In this current trend of naming children after fruit, or other weird and wonderful things, surely a name that has been ‘stolen’ by the girls is the least of their worries?

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