Where Have All the Boys' Names Gone?

Filed under: Baby Names

Where are all the boys' names? Now that unisex/male names are becoming a trend for baby girls, it's hard to find a masculine name for boys! And even though girls can be Ryan and Brett and Cameron, boys can't be Ashley -- they'd be laughed at. Any advice?

-Masculine-Name-Searching Mom

There's no doubt about it: if naming is a turf war, the boys are losing. Old favorites like Ashley and Leslie are long gone, Avery and Bailey are teetering, and even the biblical classic Micah shows signs of androgyny.

It would be nice to think that boys and girls could play nicely and share their names, but historically it seldom happens. At a certain girl-baby saturation point, names "switch sides" and become unavailable for use as boy's names. So it's natural for parents of boys to feel leery when parents of girls start to eye a treasured favorite.

Until recently, it was easy to identify names at risk of switching. All of the names I just mentioned end in an -ee or -a sound, which fit traditional feminine patterns. But today, the notion of feminine style is bursting wide open. Names like Elliot, Rowan and Campbell are are being given to girls, and a "-son" name (Addison, Emerson) is increasingly likely to mean "daughter."

Are there fashionable boys' names with girl-proof machismo? Perhaps cowboy names like Wyatt and Cooper, drenched in dust, leather and gunpowder? I wouldn't count on it. The very things that appeal to mothers of boys about these names could also appeal to mothers of girls. Sonically, Wyatt falls somewhere between Maya and Scarlett, and seems no more a stretch for being pressed into use for girls than Elliot was.

If avoiding androgyny is your #1 goal, you might have to sacrifice the "fashionable" part. The most surefire masculine names are the stodgy classics. In all my name travels, I've yet to meet a little girl named Frank, George or Edward. Barring that, you can just dive in and hope that the naming future will turn out to be different from the past. With parents of boys and girls alike flocking to the same contemporary name sounds, monikers like Jordan and Skyler are starting to find a stable niche as two-sex favorites. We might just learn to share after all.

How do you deal with boys' names? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

Related: More Ask the Name Lady

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.