For Spc. Collinpowell Ebai, […] Gen. Colin Powell’s passing is both a time to mourn and a reminder of a regimented and hopeful childhood that made him the Soldier and man he is today.
“My first name is a combination of the first and last name of my grandfather’s most-admired leader of all time,” said Ebai, who was born in Kumba, Cameroon, a month before Powell retired as a four-star general. “In fact, my uncles still call me, ‘the general.’”
From Cloris Leachman’s autobiography Cloris (2009), a scene set in early 1966, soon after the birth of her daughter Dinah:
Sometime the following week — I think it was five days later — we gave a dinner party, and Dinah Shore was among the guests. She wanted to see the new baby, so we brought her to the crib, and she oohed and aahed about how beautiful she was.
“What’s her name?” she asked as she leaned over the baby.
“Dinah,” I said. Then I thought, Oh, oh.
Dinah Shore turned to us, emotion visible on her face. “You named her after me?” There was a tremble in her voice.
The truth was, we hadn’t thought of Dinah Shore or anybody else while we cruised around for a name. Some very fast footwork was called for.
“Yes,” I said, my eyes mirroring the emotion in hers. “George and I thought you were the perfect role model for our baby.”
I mean, what could I do? She was having something close to a religious experience. I couldn’t slap my forehead and say, “Can you believe it? We never once thought of you when we picked the name.”
From the lighthearted obituary of Lindy Gene Rollins (1928-2022) in the Amarillo Globe-News:
He had a lifelong obsession with airplanes which should not be a surprise since he was named after Charles Lindbergh (Lucky Lindy) the first U.S. pilot credited with making a solo, nonstop transatlantic flight. Lindy went on to take flying lessons after he retired as a diesel mechanic. Thankfully, he was not granted his pilot’s license due to his age and the medications he was on. No one in the family would have been brave enough to ride in an airplane he was piloting anyway!
From the book Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World (1999) by David Sheff, an account of the Nintendo of America staff — working out of a warehouse in Washington state — preparing the video game Donkey Kong (1981) for the U.S. market:
They were trying to decide what to call the rotund, red-capped carpenter, when there was a knock on the door.
[Minoru] Arakawa answered it. Standing there was the owner of the warehouse. In front of everyone, he blasted Arakawa because the rent was late. Flustered, Arakawa promised that the money was forthcoming, and the man left.
The landlord’s name was Mario Segali [sic]. “Mario,” they decided. “Super Mario!”
(The landlord’s surname was actually spelled Segale. And, if you’re remembering the video game character as a plumber instead of a carpenter, you’re right — his occupation was changed for later games.)
From a late 2021 article about college football by Associated Press journalist Stephen Hawkins:
Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant […] changed his number for the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Cotton Bowl against No. 1 Alabama on Friday.
Yes, Bryant is named after the late NBA great, even with the different spelling of the first name.
For the playoff game, Bryant switched from the No. 7 he had worn throughout his Cincinnati career to No. 8, one of the two numbers the basketball Hall of Fame player wore while winning five NBA titles over his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“My parents loved Kobe Bryant and my brother does too,” the Bearcats cornerback said. “So I was named for Kobe Bryant. It’s just spelled differently”
From the book The Bonjour Effect (2016) by Canadian authors (and couple) Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau:
But curiously, the French still stick to the classics when it comes to naming children. […] And one rarely sees names with really unorthodox spellings. The French just assume having a weird name will limit you in life. Our twin daughters, who are adopted, had as their original Haitian names something along the lines of Mandarine and Mandoline. Before the girls arrived, many of our North American friends were worried that changing their names would damage their identities by depriving them of a link to their Haitian origins. Our French friends uniformly congratulated us for changing the names and helping our daughters avoid (what they assumed would be) humiliation all their their lives. Personne ne pourrait vivre avec ce nom, they said. No one can get through life with names like those.
For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.
Looking for baby names that work for both genders?
Actually, let me rephrase that: Do you want to see which names are being given to sizeable numbers of baby boys and baby girls in the U.S. right now?
I wanted to ask the question in a more specific way because I think the details matter. Names can be gender-neutral in theory, but that doesn’t mean they’re being given to babies of both genders in practice.
Gender identity is a big topic of conversation these days, so it’s not surprising that an ever-growing number of parents are searching for baby names that aren’t strongly associated with one gender or the other.
To know what’s happening with baby names in real life, though, we need to focus on the data. That’s why I didn’t consider anything but data when I created the list below.
These names were culled from the 2021 U.S. baby name data (provided by the U.S. Social Security Administration). Each one saw usage that was at least one-third female and at least one-third male, making all of them relatively gender-neutral among today’s newborns.
Top gender-neutral baby names
Let’s start with a quick rundown of the 20 most popular gender-neutral baby names in the U.S. right now:
Now here’s the same list again, but this time around I’ve added more information: data, rankings, popularity graphs, and definitions.
Last year, the name Parker was given to 6,229 babies. Of these babies, 2,406 (38.63%) were girls and 3,823 (61.37%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Parker placed 115th for girls and 93rd for boys.
Parker is an English surname that originally referred to someone who was employed as the keeper of a hunting park.
Last year, the name River was given to 5,317 babies. Of these babies, 1,862 (35.02%) were girls and 3,455 (64.98%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, River placed 151st for girls and 110th for boys.
River, the English word that refers to a flowing body of water, was derived from the Latin word ripa, meaning “riverbank” or “seashore.”
Last year, the name Charlie was given to 4,190 babies. Of these babies, 2,202 (52.55%) were girls and 1,988 (47.45%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Charlie placed 127th for girls and 189th for boys.
Charlie is a diminutive of the male name Charles, which ultimately comes from the Germanic name Karl, which meant “freeman” (i.e., not a serf or slave).
Interestingly, Charlie is a top-10 name for boys in some regions (like New Zealand and Ireland) and a top-10 name for girls in others (like Quebec).
Last year, the name Blake was given to 3,337 babies. Of these babies, 1,497 (44.86%) were girls and 1,840 (55.14%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Blake placed 199th for girls and 205th for boys.
Blake is an English surname that can be traced back to either of two Old English words that happen to have opposite meanings — one being “black,” the other being “white.”
Last year, the name Hayden was given to 3,283 babies. Of these babies, 1,096 (33.38%) were girls and 2,187 (66.62%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Hayden placed 290th for girls and 176th for boys.
Hayden is an English surname that originally referred to someone from one of several different like-named locations. In many cases, the place names were made up of elements meaning “hay” and “hill.” (Depending upon the location, though, the first element sometimes meant “fence enclosure,” and the second element sometimes meant “valley.”)
Last year, the name Emerson was given to 2,952 babies. Of these babies, 1,729 (58.57%) were girls and 1,223 (41.43%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Emerson placed 167th for girls and 279th for boys.
Emerson is an English surname that originally referred to the son of someone named Emery.
Last year, the name Amari was given to 2,880 babies. Of these babies, 972 (33.75%) were girls and 1,908 (66.25%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Amari placed 333rd for girls and 199th for boys.
Amari is a modern name that doesn’t seem to have a specific origin or meaning.
Last year, the name Finley was given to 2,705 babies. Of these babies, 1,407 (52.01%) were girls and 1,298 (47.99%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Finley placed 211th for girls and 265th for boys.
Finley is based on the Gaelic name Fionnlagh, which is made up of elements meaning “white” and “warrior.”
Last year, the name Remington was given to 2,475 babies. Of these babies, 890 (35.96%) were girls and 1,585 (64.04%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Remington placed 348th for girls and 231st for boys.
Remington is an English surname that originally referred to someone from the town of Rimington, in Lancashire. (It’s also an American gun brand.)
Last year, the name Phoenix was given to 2,454 babies. Of these babies, 1,032 (42.05%) were girls and 1,422 (57.95%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Phoenix placed 308th for girls and 248th for boys.
Phoenix, the word that refers the mythological bird that rises from its own ashes, was derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “crimson” or “purple.”
Last year, the name Oakley was given to 2,292 babies. Of these babies, 1,524 (66.49%) were girls and 768 (33.51%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Oakley placed 193rd for girls and 403rd for boys.
Oakley is an English surname that originally referred to someone from one of several different like-named locations. In all cases, the place names were made up of elements meaning “oak” and “clearing.”
Last year, the name Dakota was given to 2,090 babies. Of these babies, 1,147 (54.88%) were girls and 943 (45.12%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Dakota placed 270th for girls and 344th for boys.
Dakota, the name of a Native American tribe, means “friendly” or “allied” in the Siouan language of the Dakota people.
Last year, the name Tatum was given to 1,959 babies. Of these babies, 1,125 (57.43%) were girls and 834 (42.57%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Tatum placed 279th for girls and 385th for boys.
Tatum is an English surname that originally referred to the homestead of someone named Tata.
Last year, the name Rory was given to 1,919 babies. Of these babies, 789 (41.12%) were girls and 1,130 (58.88%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Rory placed 396th for girls and 295th for boys.
Rory is an Anglicized form of the Irish name Ruaidhri, which is made up of elements meaning “red” and “king.”
Last year, the name Ari was given to 1,598 babies. Of these babies, 649 (40.61%) were girls and 949 (59.39%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Ari placed 478th for girls and 342nd for boys.
Ari has several potential definitions, including: “lion” in Hebrew, “brave” in Armenian, and “eagle” in Icelandic.
Last year, the name Alexis was given to 1,569 babies. Of these babies, 940 (59.91%) were girls and 629 (40.09%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Alexis placed 341st for girls and 472nd for boys.
Alexis comes directly from the ancient Greek (male) name Alexis, which meant “helper” or “defender.”
Last year, the name Armani was given to 1,540 babies. Of these babies, 661 (42.92%) were girls and 879 (57.08%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Armani placed 469th for girls and 369th for boys.
Armani is an Italian surname that originally referred to the child of someone named Armano. (It’s also an Italian fashion brand.)
Last year, the name Remy was given to 1,451 babies. Of these babies, 550 (37.90%) were girls and 901 (62.10%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Remy placed 550th for girls and 357th for boys.
Remy, written Rémy in French, is based on the Latin name Remigius, which meant “oarsman.”
It’s interesting that both Remy and Remington are on this list. Remy is a stand-alone name…but it could also be used as a nickname for Remington.
Last year, the name Reign was given to 1,338 babies. Of these babies, 884 (66.07%) were girls and 454 (33.93%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Reign placed 349th for girls and 608th for boys.
Reign is an English word that can be traced back to the Latin word regnum, meaning “royal power” or “kingdom.”
Last year, the name Milan was given to 1,278 babies. Of these babies, 452 (35.37%) were girls and 826 (64.63%) were boys.
In terms of rankings, Milan placed 655th for girls and 388th for boys.
Milan is a Slavic name based on the element milu, meaning “dear, sweet.” (It’s also a city in northern Italy.)
More gender-neutral baby names
What other gender-neutral names made the cut?
Here are the names that were used a bit less often than the twenty above…
Number of babies*
*Male and female usage added together
All of the above ranked among both the top 1,000 girl names and the top 1,000 boy names last year. Two of the below (Robin and Landry) did as well.
Number of babies*
*Male and female usage added together
Most of the above appeared in at least one top-1,000 list last year. The exceptions were Kacey, Campbell, True, Arden, Shea, and Sol.
None of the names from this point onward reached the top 1,000 for either gender.
Number of babies*
*Male and female usage added together
Here are the gender-neutral baby names that saw overall usage ranging from 100 to 199 babies (in descending order):
Most of the names above don’t have a long history of usage in the U.S., so they aren’t anchored one gender or the other — making them good options for expectant parents who want names that work for both genders.
Note that many fall into a handful of categories, including: nature names, place names, surnames, color names, and virtue names. It may be worthwhile to focus on categories like these as you continue your search, as they’ll tend to naturally contain a good proportion of gender-neutral names.
If you’d like to see popularity graphs for any of the names in this post, check below for the long list of tags. Each tag is a name, so just find the name you’re interested in and click through. The graph will need a moment to load — it’s grabbing a lot of data — but it will allow you to see at a glance the name’s current gender-balance (and make an informed guess about its near-future gender-balance, given the current trajectories).
French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte may have spent his life trying to conquer a continent, but that life began and ended on islands.
He was born (as “Napoleone Buonaparte”) on the Mediterranean island of Corsica in 1769 — the same year that France took Corsica from the Republic of Genoa (now part of Italy). He died while in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena in 1821.
In between, Napoléon: attended military school on the mainland, began serving in the French Army, rose to prominence during the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars, became the de facto leader of France in 1799, declared himself Emperor in 1804, and proceeded to build a vast empire via the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
Needless to say, a large number of babies all over the world have been named “Napoleon” since that time.
I don’t want this post to get too crazy, though, so I’ve decided to collect namesakes from just two locations — France and the U.S. — and to stick to the years during which Napoléon was active.
Napoléon’s namesakes in France
Thousands of French babies were named in honor of Napoléon from the mid-1790s to the mid-1810s.
In contrast with namesakes in other countries (like the U.S. and England), most of his French namesakes were given only his first name — not both names — and it was typically combined with one or more traditional French names (e.g., “Louis Napoléon,” “Jean Baptiste Napoléon”).
With that in mind, I went out of my way to find combinations that were a bit more varied…
Napoléon Baillot, b. 1793 in France
Jacques Napoléon Desiré Campa, b. 1795 in France
Napoléon Stéphanie Joseph Therin, b. 1797 in France
Napoléon Joseph Buttin, b. 1799 in France
Napoléon-Jean Demeester, b. 1800 in France
Napoléon Nicolas Senelar, b. 1801 in France
Guillaume Napoléon Pelletier, b. 1802 in France
Willebrod Napoléon Désiré Degrave, b. 1803 in France
Charlemagne Napoléon Lambert, b. 1804 in France
Napoléon Louis François Richounne, b. 1805 in France
Napoléon Parfait Furpille, b. 1806 in France
parfait means “perfect” in French
Bienaimé Napoléon Le Cagneux, b. 1807 in France
bienaimé means “beloved” in French
François Desiré Prosper Napoléon Loiseau, b. 1808 in France
Napoléon La Paix Lemasson, b. 1809 in France
la paix means “peace” in French
Gustave Napoléon Fichet, b. 1810 in France
Esprit Napoléon Houdry, b. 1811 in France
esprit means “spirit” in French
Napoléon Bonaventure Dusautier, b. 1812 in France
Auguste César Napoléon Decoene, b. 1813 in France
Napoléon-Etienne Vernoni, b. 1814 in France
Fructueux Napoléon Artigue, b. 1815 in France
fructueux means “successful” in French
Almost all of the namesakes in this group were boys, but a handful were girls with feminized forms of the name (like Napoléonne, Napoléonide, and Napoléontine).
Several dozen more boys — most of them born early on — were given only the surname:
Jacques Dominique Bonaparte Venkirch, b. 1796 in France
Augustin Bonaparte Joseph Galle, b. 1797 in France
Jean Baptiste Bonaparte Mollard, b. 1798 in France
Séraphin Adolphe Bonaparte Decorne, b. 1799 in France
Alexis Sébastien Bonaparte Poirée, b. 1801 in France
Napoléon had usually been called “General Bonaparte” or “citizen Bonaparte” before mid-1802, when the people of France went to the polls to decide: “Should Napoléon Bonaparte be consul for life?” Millions voted yes, and, after that, “he was generally known as Napoléon rather than Bonaparte.”
Napoléon’s namesakes in the U.S.
Napoléon didn’t wage any wars on North American soil (though he did sell a lot of that soil in 1803, when he let go of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million). Nonetheless, U.S. newspapers paid close attention to him:
Americans were clearly impressed by Napoléon’s achievements, judging by the hundreds of U.S. namesakes born in the late 1790s and first decades of the 1800s. Many of these babies received both his first name and his surname:
A few of the people named Bonaparte (but not Napoléon) did have other given names — like Lucien, and Jerome — that could have been inspired by other members of the Bonaparte family. I found a Josephine Bonaparte Evans (b. 1815), for instance, who was probably named after Napoléon’s first wife.
Other famous men named Napoléon Bonaparte (including Napoleon III) also had namesakes, but it was the original Napoléon Bonaparte who put these two unusual names on the map.
So…what do they mean?
The Italian forename Napoleone has obscure origins, so the meaning isn’t known for certain. One popular theory is that it’s made up of the elements Neapolis, the original name of Naples, and leone, meaning “lion.” When Bonaparte was born in 1769, the name was “relatively common around Genoa and Tuscany,” though it was spelled a variety of ways (e.g., Nabulio, Nabulione, Napulione, Napolionne, Lapulion). The name had been used in his family before; his father’s uncle, for instance, was also named Napoleone.
The Italian surname Buonaparte, on the other hand, is much more straightforward: it’s made up of the elements buona, meaning “good,” and parte, meaning “part, share, portion.”
Was anyone in your family tree named after Napoléon?
Hundreds of babies were given the name “Waterloo” — typically as a middle — during the second half of the 1810s. Most of them were baby boys born in England, but some were girls, and some were born elsewhere in the British Empire (and beyond).
William Wellington Waterloo Humbley*, b. 1815, in England
Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon †, b. 1815, Belgium
The place-name Waterloo is made up of a pair of Middle Dutch words that, together, mean “watery meadow.” Since the battle, though, the word Waterloo has also been used to refer to “a decisive or final defeat or setback.” (It’s used this way in the 1974 Abba song “Waterloo” [vid], for instance.)
The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) followed the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-c.1802), which followed the French Revolution (1789-1799), which gave rise to a number of revolutionary baby names in France.
*William Wellington Waterloo Humbley was born on the day of the battle (while his father, an army officer, was abroad taking part). He was baptized the following summer, and the Duke of Wellington himself stood godfather. Several years after that, in 1819, his parents welcomed daughter Vimiera Violetta Vittoria Humbley — named after the battles of Vimeiro (1808) and Vitoria (1813).
† Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon’s father, Thomas, had been wounded in the previous battle (Quatre Bras, on the 16th). Her mother, Martha — who was traveling with the army — searched the battlefield for him all night. Eventually she discovered that he’d been transported to Brussels, some 20 miles away, so she walked there with her three young children. (Through a 10-hour thunderstorm, no less.) She reached Brussels on the morning of the 18th, located her husband, and gave birth to Isabella on the 19th.
(A little lower down were George, Rhett, and Jude.)
These lists include the same names that appeared on the 2020 lists, but in both cases the names are in a slightly different order.
And, of course, here’s the usual disclaimer: I left out the borderline boy names (Owen, Wyatt, Charles, Miles/Myles, Ryan, Ian, Rowan, Gael) that can be pronounced with either one or two syllables, depending upon the accent of the speaker. Notably, all nine of these names ranked higher than both Chase and Cole.