Shea, Shae, Shay: Girl names or boy names?

This question has been bringing a lot of traffic to my blog lately, so I thought I’d post about it and see what everyone thinks.

Most of us know of Shea as a surname and/or a stadium name. Shea doesn’t currently rank in the top 1,000 for either boys or girls, but the name and its various spellings do appear further down on the SSA’s list:

Shea247 girls155 boys
Shae114 girls25 boys
Shay107 girls82 boys
Shaye39 girls20 boys
Shai*34 girls44 boys
Totals:541 (62%)326 (38%)

Most versions are used more often for girls than for boys.

What do you think — is Shea a boy name or a girl name? How about other versions of the name? (Does spelling matter?)

*Commenter Panya correctly notes that Shai also happens to be an unrelated Hebrew name. It’s impossible to know which Shais are which, though, so I just counted them all as versions of Shea above.

65 thoughts on “Shea, Shae, Shay: Girl names or boy names?

  1. It’s male, no matter the spelling, or how many girls have it.

    Oh, and I’d assume Shai was the Hebrew name, pronounced ‘shy’ not ‘shay’.

  2. I only know girls with this name, so I think of it as a girl’s name.

    On a slightly different note, I often see it paired with Skye/Skylar/Schuyler. Do you have any idea why these names suddenly became popular in the late ’80s & early ’90s, particularly Schuyler?

  3. @Panya – I’m sure some of the babies (esp. the boys) named Shai did get the Hebrew name. But the rest of the babies (esp. the girls) named Shai likely got it as a twist on Shea, so I thought it should be included.

  4. The first Shae I ever knew was actually named Shaelyn, so my instinct is to say girl. However, since Shea is an anglicized form of Séaghdha, that version seems very male.

    (I don’t actually care for the name, unless it’s a nickname for Séamus/Shamus, simply because it makes me think of shea butter.)

  5. It can go either way but it’s a very feminine name in my opinion. So more for girls.

  6. My boyfriend is called Shay, so for his sake I will say male. My unlce said it was a girl’s name.

  7. obviously i love the name. heard it when i was about 9 years old and i knew then if i ever had a daughter her name would be shay. i think it could go either way just like alot of names these days ie shawn, donnie, and even mike.
    ps i paired it with danielle which i believe adds the femine

  8. I know many girls named Shay/Shae and one boy named Shea, he hates it because he claims his parents gave him a girls name, which I would have to agree with…

  9. @shays mom:

    I’m sorry, but Shawn is absolutely a male name. Naming your daughter Shawn is just trying to make it more acceptable for them to wear men’s boxers and cargo pants.

  10. I think it can go wither way!!
    And I have a question myself, Do you think Julz is a boy or a girls name?

  11. We named our daughter Jillian Shai. Shai is Hebrew and means gift from God. We thought it was a very pretty name with such a beautiful meaning. We were going with Grace but the name has become way to popular and we wanted something a little more unique. Just as my name is universally used for both male/female, so is Shai (however you choose to spell it).

  12. My name is Shae and i know very few with the same name but the few i do are girls i think it’s a girl name
    p.s i’m a girl

  13. it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a girl’s name or a boy’s name. many names like jessie and alex started out as boys’ names but have become girls’ names.

  14. The origin of the name Shea is Irish/ Gaelic. I live in Ireland and Shea/ Shay are very popular names for boys but I have never heard them being used for girls in Ireland (but I have in America).

  15. Correct Niamh my son is called Shay.iam English but have some Irish background.

  16. Well my names Shaye. Ima Girl and I would of thought that this name is a unisex name but boys would spell it different from girls

  17. My name is Shea. Last name begins with a Mc
    Can’t get any more Irish than that. Let me make
    this very clear… Shea is a MALE Irish name. So go
    ahead and keep naming your girls Shay (if this
    spelling of the name justifies you reason for naming a
    girl a boys name) because almost all girls I have met
    with the name Shay not the correct Shea are HOT!!!

  18. We have a son named Shaye. We liked the hebrew meaning ift from God because he was. Born 2 pounds 2 at 31 weeks – he’s now 3 running around like a cheeky monkey! It can go either way I say – just for him, nothing suited until we held a card with his name on it beside his incubater and when we said “Shaye” to him, it was the only name he responded to with a wee sigh and smile :)

  19. Ooops – meant “gift from God” not “ift”! People are surprised by our choice as our children are a mix of Samoan, German, Asian (my side) and European, Maori, Irish, Scottish, English (husband’s side). Shaye went will with his last name – Ormsby :)

  20. my name is Shay, I am a female. This is a really common name for girls my age (29) so I have notice in my home town. My middle name is Rochelle, works for me now, but as a kid I hated it.

  21. Hi im a boy called Shea and had this discussion with several people. Here is what i have come to believe that SHEA is a boys name short for sheamus(irish, my name isnt sheamus its shea but i have irish blood)however it can be a girls name aswell it just depends on how you want to spell it like SHAY and SHAE and SHAI and typically the more feminine version of shea(however you want to spell it) and too be honest i really dont think it matters what gender it is, it can have the name.

  22. Being Irish, I named my son, Shea Daniel Mc…. Ignorance would have people making comments that it is a girls name because of…whatever. Gaelic Origin, NOT AMERICAN…It means Hawklike, Irish form of John. Yes, in America they like the sound and give it to girls with different spellings, but it does not change that it’s origin is Gaelic, means Hawk like and Irish form of John.

  23. my name is Shea and so you know I’m a girl … I don’t think it honestly matters how you spell the name or if it’s for a boy or girl it’s a unisex name just like Jamie or Ashley or Shaun or anything like that … I’ve never met anyone with my name nor has anyone ever said to me it’s a boys name I also have Irish blood but that doesn’t mean I have a boys name specially cause I how it’s a spelt … my middle name is adele so it goes lovely together they only problem is people never pronounce it properly bit annoying!

  24. My maiden name was Shea, originally it was O’Shea, family is also originally from county cork ireland. I love the name and I hate when it’s spelled incorrectly. I had a time growing up and teachers pronouncing my last name. They would say Sheeee-uuh? I would say “no” have you ever heard of Shea’s stadium? So then they understood. I think the name sounds femanin. But the name is Irish and if the Irish say its a male name then it’s a male name. Enough said. Haha.

  25. I’m from Derry, Ireland the name shèa is for a boy. My sons names Shea-Liam Breslin full Irish name never in my life if heard a girl called Shea, but my son got called she a in Scotland were my partner from if drive me crazy

  26. I am a girl and i have to say I have NEVER met guy with the name Shea, Shay or in any form of those names. But does it really matter if it is a guys’ name or girls’ name? In my opinion no it doesnt matter. I just like to think people who are named Shai or however you wanna spell it are just as special as children with other names. One thing though about the name Shea only spelled Shai, people always say it wrong they say Shy.

  27. It’s a traditioal Irish male name. However many inner city American’s with little to no education have given it to girls. Thanks a lot, you make my life difficult.

  28. It’s not a name it just makes me think of Shea Butter like calling a child Jojoba or Hibiscus what are we naming children from cosmetic and bathroom washes these days honestly

  29. Its a boys name, my sons name is Shay and I know its a boys name because we have family in Ireland and asked them to make sure, there are other ways to spell it like (Shea) Neary the Liverpool boxer

  30. It’s a boys name, of Irish descent.. I’m Irish, born in Ireland & still living here, 100% boys name!

  31. Definitely a boys name. It’s atrocious on a girl. I think americans need to stop disrespecting other nationalities names’ and using them on the wrong genders.

  32. My name is Shea and I am a female. Love my name! Does anyone else that is named this have problems with people thinking its pronounced as She-ah???

  33. I am 16 , a female and called Shaye – Erin. I love my name, have met a couple of boys – Shea, but no girls. Love bein unique and not one of the Stacey, Danielle, Hayley, Courtney, Chelsea brigade.

  34. I have a sister named Shaylon and we call her Shay. I never thought it could be a boys name but I guess it could. But Shaylon is a good suggestion if you are looking for a boy or girls name.

  35. I had a friend at primary school called Shailene. Now that’s a very girlie version of Shay/Shae/Shea…& if you think that’s a modern version let me tell you I am now 64 ! Shailene was born in 1948 like me !

  36. I have named my son O’Shae (Originated from Ireland) and i have had mixed responses. Do you think this name is feminine or masculine or both??? Hsve I spelt the name in a feminine way?? What are your thoughts???

    Please share your thoughts and opinions…..

  37. I love the name Shae for a boy or a girl. I flirted with the idea of calling my first son Shae but went for Callum instead. I associate it with an Irish name for a boy but my boss’s gorgeous daughter is called Shay and that’s what got me thinking if I ever have a little pink one- this would be just as lovely for a girl!

  38. I think Shea is defiantly a girls name. I’m biased because I am a girl and that’s my name, but I also lived with a girl in college with the same name and spelling.. I have only met one guy named Shay, spelt differently.

  39. If you look up the meaning of they name Shay or my full name which is Shaylynn it will obviously come up Irish, and Hebrew decent. Irish meaning fairy palace and in Hebrew meaning a gift, or gods gracious gift… This meaning speaks volumes to me and is clearly on the feminine side especially when you compare it to other Irish boy names like Brian.

  40. Shay is male, nothing feminine about it. Its even in the irish top 100 for the boys, so.

  41. The Irish Shea/Shay does *NOT* mean anything like “fairy palace”. Depending on the word being anglicised, it means either “hawk”, “admirable”, “fine”, or “fortunate”.

    Siodh/siog [pronounced ‘shee’ not ‘shay’] means “fairy” and palas means “palace”.

  42. Shea is definitely a boy’s name. That’s what we named my son because we are huge hockey fans and love Shea Weber on the Nashville Predators. We wanted something unique, but not really strange or weird, but for some reason people sometimes think his name is pronounced like Shia which I hate. I’m just like really? How does that look like it would be pronounced that way. I also hate it when people see his name and think he’s a girl. I don’t know where people are getting the Fairy Palace meaning from. We’ve always seen it’s meaning as admirable or hawk-like. Shea is actually a more popular name in Ireland and Canada.

  43. The current (2013) numbers for the top 3 variants:

    Shea: 196 girls, 104 boys
    Shae: 130 girls, 21 boys
    Shay: 113 girls, 53 boys

  44. Shae is the name of a prostitue in George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy novel series and now ” Game of Thrones” TV show. She ends up being a snitch who is murdered by her lover. So, whether the name is boy or girl, do you really want your kid to be associated with this piece of pop culture?

  45. For those saying that Shay is a boys name, I take some offence. Shay/Shea/Shae is a gender neutral name and is used by both girls and boys. I haven’t met a bunch of other people by the same name (given it’s not overly used), but those that I have are usually feminine. It’s kinda insulting to look up your name and see that people are declaring it to be the opposite gender, no matter what.

    One of the meanings of Shay is “a gift” and that is the reason my mom loved the name. Not because she wanted to be different. But because she thought it would be a lovely name for her baby. And I love the name and am always excited to meet anyone by the same name (even if their of different spelling).

    So, for those saying that this name is destined for boys: Don’t deal with absolutes.

  46. @Amanda Every name has some bad feeling associated with it. That’s why it’s so difficult to choose a name, because at some point in your life you’ve probably pegged the name with negative feelings. Don’t your name is excluded from that.

  47. At 43 I am the oldest “Shay” I have ever heard. Full name is Shaylene. Definitely a girl.

  48. We named our 15 year old daughter Shai (sounds like shay) Lizann as my wife is Jewish and we preferred this variant. Does it really matter if people have a strong opinion either way; boy or girl? Our 13 year daughter is named Jamie Aliyah and goes by James as a nickname. Both like their names and in fact Jamie would like to have her name legally changed to James. It’s not like we named one of them Stanley, which by the way is the name of President Obama’s mother.

  49. I am a female in my 30s named Shea. I have always known it to be originally an Irish boy’s name, with increasing popularity as a girl’s name. I’d say only about 1/4 of the Sheas that I’ve ever met are male, the rest female (here in America). It can be spelled many ways, as listed above, and sometimes it is short for names like Shaelynn or LaShay, etc. If someone is reading my name (spelled Shea) for the first time, 75% of the time they pronounce it as “SHEE-uh”, which drives me nuts ;) But I do love my name. It’s unique yet so simple.

    For the record: I have met very feminine women named Shawn, Ryan, and even Mykel (Michael). And I have met very manly men named Ashley, Tracy, Stacy, etc. Name your child what YOU think is beautiful and meaningful. Does the name’s original gender really matter that much?

  50. My name is Shea and I am a girl and that name can also use as a last name like George Beverly Shea

  51. Gender neutral

    It’s a thing

    Just because there’s a “manly man” with the name “Shae” or you’ve known a girl with the same name as you.

    The statistics don’t count.

  52. My name is Shea. I’m a guy, born in Texas. Family is Irish descent. I was named after three American men named Shea: Danny Shea (Dad’s war buddy) Father Brendan Shea (Married my parents) and Joseph F. Shea (Apollo Spacecraft Program Office (ASPO) manager). So I have to go with “guys” name on this particular spelling. And YES… I hate it when it’s pronounced “shee-ah”. God Bless Texas, God Bless The USA and Éirinn go Brách.

  53. I associate Shea with Shea Stadium and because of that more than anything else I consider it a masculine name despite having also heard it used as a feminine name.

    And with apologies to all those named Shae, when I see it spelled that way I always think it’s a typo with the a & e reversed unintentionally.

  54. Listen, Im Irish. You can call your daughter whatever you like. If you don’t care about the origin of a name you can call her John, Barney or Steve…. even Shea. If you do care, Shea is a boys name in Ireland and thats where it comes from. My male dog is called Shea.

  55. I’m a female Shae and I dated a male Shea once. We thought that was funny. Would have been weird if we had gotten married.

    I know it’s a male name. It’s a nickname for Irish name Seamus, which I presume is pronounced Shaymus. That name is actually the Irish version of James. James is the Greek form of Jacob. So….essentially, Shae is a nickname for Jacob. LOL.

    I actually like that fact, beings how I am fond of the Biblical story. Jacob wrestled with God, refusing to let go of the angel until he blessed him. This is a picture of, for me contending for the promises of God. As a result, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means something like “Overcomer”.

  56. Isra El either means (probably) “God Is The Ruler”, or (maybe, more likely a Biblical pun on the first one) “Fights With God” – a little bit like another famous name, “Dances With Wolves”. :)

  57. Sorry – I forgot to make it clear that the “Fights With God” meaning of Israel definitely means getting into a fight *against* God, not someone who fights beside God.

  58. My beautiful granddaughter is Shea. In my opinion, it’s both, male and female. Mostly female. My older sons name happens to be Shai. (Pronounced: Shy) I myself, am Barri. It was VERY UNCOMMON when I was gifted with my name…1959, (I mean that, as I’m one of very few who has ALWAYS LOVED MY NAME)
    Yet, today there are A LOT of Barri’s … especially in their 30’s. So, Barri (Bari & Barrie) to ME, is female! BarrY is 100% male!
    Anyone have any ideas for a HEBREW name that sounds good paired with Shea? Thanks. Toda!

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