Have You Considered Giving Your Child a Gender-Neutral Name?

I read a VOA article by Katy Weaver that changed the way I thought about naming in general and middle-naming in particular. Katy wrote about how gender identity doesn’t have to be in a name.

Parents are increasingly using gender-neutral names for boys and girls. Gender-neutral names can have the effect of giving girls a “stronger” persona and boys a “softer” persona–which can be good for both genders.

Here are the top-ten gender-neutral names from the 2016 Social Security Admin. popularity survey: Charlie, Finley, Skyler, Justice, Royal, Lennon, Oakley, Armani, Azariah and Landry.

If you’ve read my annual-trend reports you’ll know that girls are increasingly being given names with an “a”-ending (like Ava) or a soft consonant-ending (like Abigail or Harper)–and less of the most popular girls’ names have “i” or “y”-endings (like Zoey). “A”-endings and soft consonant-endings come across to most people as stronger than “i” or “y”-endings for girls.

At the same time, more of the most popular boys names use soft consonants like Liam Noah, and Mason–instead of hard consonants like Michael, Luke and Jack. It’s not surprising that parents are giving boys names that sound softer at the same time they are giving more boys gender-neutral names like Riley and Charlie (both of which have “y”and “i” endings).

So just as the trend towards stronger names for girls and softer names for boys is playing out on top-ten lists, it makes sense for parents also to consider the use of gender-neutral first or middle names for children of both genders. Not only are gender-neutral names stronger for girls and softer for boys, they also allow parents to give their children a choice about how they want to come across to others (based on how they feel about themselves).

In articles I have written about middle names, I have suggested that parents use middle names as a way to give children a choice about what they want to be called. If parents want to give their child an unusual first name, they should consider giving their child a less challenging middle name.

One of my younger brothers decided to abandon his first name, Andrew, and switch to his  middle name (Mitch) when he was still in elementary school. I waited until I was in graduate school to switch to my middle name.

Millenials are a lot more accepting of gender differences than my generation was, so it makes sense to give children a choice of names, one of which is gender-neutral. That gives children an opportunity to select a name that represents how they feel about themselves at any point their lives.

One way to provide children with gender options is to choose names for them that are rich in nickname variations. For example, Alexander and Alexandra have variations children of both genders can choose from as they grow older, including Alec, Alix, Ali, or Zander. When you’re using a baby-name book, look for names that have a long list of variations.

To help you in your search for appealing gender-neutral names, check out the latest edition of my book 100,000+ Baby Names.

2016 Naming Trends, Predictions, and Warnings

Naming Themes and Sounds behind the Fastest-Rising Baby Names

When selecting names, parents often consider options that are similar in some way. For example, they may consider root names against their variations (Adeline and Adaline), names that sound similar (Aiden and Jayden), names with similar endings (Emmalynn, Avalynn, and Gracelynn), or names with the same theme (nature names, place names, trade names, or brand names). Below are some themes and sounds that help explain why similar names rise (and fall) together.


  • Names that end in “ani”—Meilani (+1,836), Milani (+295), Kalani (+236), Kailani (+108), and Alani (+88)
  • Names that end with the sound of “rye-ah”—Ariah (+181), Ariya (+142), and Sariah (+142)
  • Names that end in “ya” or “ia”—Alaia (+2,002), Taya (+1,107), Kaya (+145), Aya (+100), and Zendaya (+91)
  • Names that end with the sound of “lin”—Aislin (+1,385), Adilynn (#329), Addilynn (+193), Roselyn (+85), Kaelyn (+54), Emmalynn (+70), Raelyn (+70), Avalynn (+66), Kaelinn (+61), and Gracelynn (+59)
  • Names that end with the sound of “lee”—Adley (+495), Heavenly (+318), Zaylee (+314), Kinslee (+175), Oakley (+154), Hadlee (+116), Tinley (+107), Everleigh (+101), Annalee (+87), Karlie (+69), Harley (+68), and Carlee (+59)
  • Names that end in “anna” or “ana”—Alannah (+189), Giavanna (+143), Avianna (+142), Aviana (+141), Lillianna (+64), Giovanna (+62), Elianna (+54), and Ivanna (+52)
  • Names associated with music, musicians, or bands—(Annie) Lennox (+416), (John) Lennon (+183), Journee (+90), and Harmoni (+89)


  • Athletes—Jabari (+194), Kyrie (+172), Kyree (+140), Beckham (+129), and Hank (+69)
  • Brand names—Otis (+160), Mack (+145), Ford (+143), Oakley (+90), Stetson (+64), and Coleman (+60)
  • Place names—Cairo (+164), Denver (+155), and Houston (+86)
  • Pompous titles—Royal (+105), Bishop (+61), and Messiah (+54)
  • University names—Baylor (+152), Princeton (+85), and Duke (+64)
  • Biblical references—Canaan (+271), Shiloh (+149), Ariel (+143), Malakai (+127), and Eden (+97)
  • Biblical names—Jedidiah (+562), Adriel (+148), Azariah (+135), Kohen (+131), Immanuel (+105), Tobias (+103), Hezekiah (+96), Joziah (+79), and Chaim (+72)
  • Classical gods and legends—Titan (+190), Achilles (+155), Apollo (+151), Atlas (+149), and Legend (+149)

Predictions for the Coming Year

  • Girls: Last year, I picked Harper to break into the top 10. I was right—Harper was #10 in 2015. Now I’m picking Amelia (#12) to jump onto the top 10 next year and Emily to fall off the top 10 list in the next two years.
  • Boys: Last year, I picked Logan to break into the top 10. I was wrong—Logan fell a notch to #14 in 2015. Now I’m picking Oliver (#19) to move into the top 15 next year and into the top 10 the following year.


  • Don’t be the last family on your street to pick a name that rhymes with Jayden—whether you’re expecting a boy or a girl. Most names that rhyme with Jayden (such as Ayden, Hayden, and Brayden) have been dropping in popularity for the last few years. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Jayden fell five notches on the boys’ list from 2014 to 2015 (#15 to #20). But did you know Jayden fell 117 notches on the girls’ list from 2014 to 2015 (#540 to #657)?
  • Naming children after young, attractive pop stars and athletes is fraught with danger. Most parents sensibly lose interest in naming their child after a favorite child celebrity when that star morphs from a cute, clean-cut adolescent to an awkward adult. Most people familiar with the careers of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan understand that the cutest and cuddliest celebs are likely to go off the rails at some point—if only because they have more disposable income than you ever did at the age of 20. For this reason, it’s a lot safer to stick to historical figures—about whom unpleasant surprises rarely pop up.
  • Names that create the impression of perfection or excellence are likely to cause unintended consequences, including disrespectful back talk. Some of the fastest rising names for boys could be accurately described as “pompous titles,” such as Royal. If you’re not the Duke or Duchess of Cambridge, your child isn’t royal. Also, in the “Star Kids” section of this book, you’ll notice that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian named their son Saint. No child behaves like a saint for long on any given day—even a child named Saint.

How to Overcome Baby-Naming Anxiety

I just read a charming article by blogger Melissa Dell who struggled with the task of finding a name for her child–so much so that she became extremely anxious when the copy of 100,000+ Baby Names she ordered did not arrive.

Her article illustrates how she and her husband used my book to discover names they liked and call them to each other’s attention–so they could focus on names they both liked, which they would then discuss.

They took turns spending time with my book and highlighted names on pages they marked for each other’s attention. Then they traded the book back and forth so they could look at the highlighted names and initiate discussions about them.

Melissa’s article helped me understand the value of a book like mine in comparison with searching for names online. I’m happy to report that Melissa and her husband found 4 names they both liked, but they have not made a final choice yet. I’ll update her article when I find out which name she chose (and why).

I should probably mention that her article contains a number of photos to illustrate how they used the book.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Recently Popular Names

Every year we add the latest newly popular names to 100,000+ Baby Names, so people considering them for use can look them up and learn about their meaning and origin. Specifically, we add names which have gained enough popularity to be added to the Social Security Administration’s lists of the 1,000 most popular boys’ and girls’ names.

Many of the newly popular names are new variations of names already on the list, such as Lorelai, a variation of Lorelei. Some are familiar only to people who watch  certain TV shows, like Khaleesi, a name popularized by “Game of  Thrones”. (Needless to say, the problem with names like Lorelai and Khaleesi is that they are often difficult to spell and/or pronounce.)

Some newly popular names are place names, like Maylasia and Ireland. Some are the last names of celebrities and athletes, like Anniston, Lennon and Beckham. And some are combinations of two names that just sound good together, like Lillyana.

Just for fun, I thought you might enjoy a quick look at some of the most appealing newly popular names I’ve come across over the last few years. However, instead of giving you the precise origins and meanings I use in my book, I’ll just mention the reason I think some of these names might be of interest.

Newly Popular Boys’ Names Over the Past Few Years:

Baylor (the name of a great, Texas university)
Beckham (the last name of an English soccer star)
Dash (a name that implies speed and energy)
Nash (the name an old car brand and a game-theory expert featured in “A Beautiful Mind.”)
Ronin (a feudal Japanese samurai)
Rylee (a fun new spelling for Riley)
Tiago and Thiago (a Brazilian basketball star who plays in the NBA)
Xavi (a nickname for Xavier and the name a Spanish soccer star)

Newly Popular Girls’ Names Over the Past Few Years:

Anniston (the last name of the actress who played Rachael  in “Friends”)
Elliot (a boys’ name that’s now being used for  girls)
Everly (the last name of two famous brothers who made music in the ‘50s and ‘60s)
Henley (the location—on the Thames river—of a rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge)
Journee (the French word for day)
Juniper (an evergreen shrub whose aroma can be found in gin)
Lennon (the last name of one of the most famous Beatles)
Lillyana (a combination of two names that sound great together)
Malaysia (a country that has become a name for girls)
Oakley (a sporty and cool brand of sunglasses)
Sutton (an upscale street on Manhattan’s chic east side)

9780684039992 100,000+ Baby Names is available in stores and online.


25 Popular Unisex Baby Names To Consider (Before You Know Your Baby’s Gender)

Before you learn the gender of your baby, you might want to make three lists: names for boys, names for girls and unisex names you can use for a child of either gender.

Here’s a list of 25 popular unisex names from BabyNamesLog.com.  The article contains user-friendly information about each unisex name. Below is the list of 25 unisex names you might want to consider if you are “shopping” for names before you know the gender of your child.

Addison, Alexis, Avery, Cameron, Casey, Charlie, Dakota, Dominique, Dylan, Emerson, Finley, Harley, Harper, Jaden, Jamie, Jordan, Kamryn, Micah, Morgan, Parker, Peyton, Phoenix, Reagan, Reese, Riley.

Stuck on a Name? Consider “Initial Names” as Clever Options

My Favorite cyclist in the Tour de France was an American named TeJay Van Garderen. Based on his 5th-place finish in the 2012 Tour de France and his victory in the 2013 Amgen Tour of California, he was America’s best hope to win the 2013 Tour de France. But that’s not why I cheered him on while watching the evening race summaries in the privacy of my living room. I couldn’t help rooting for Tejay because he had such a cool “initial name.”

Of course, I enjoyed watching Christopher Froome ride away from almost everyone, (except Nairo Quintano) in the Pyrenees and the Alps. I also enjoyed watching the sprinters: Marcel Kittel, André Greipel, Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish go all out at the end of the races on flat terrain. (On major climbing days, the sprinters were typically too far behind to have any chance of winning.)

So I might as well list my three favorite names from the 2013 Tour de France and get it over with: Tejay (pronounced TEE-jay) Van Garderen, Ryder Hesgedal and Thibault (pronounced TEE-bo) Pinot.

That done, I’m ready to reveal this baby-naming trouble-shooting tip: if you’re having trouble finding a name for your child, add some “initial names” to your list. Using initials creatively could enable you to come up with a name that is both clever and cool and may be just right for your child. Here’s a baby-naming situation that might have you stumped. Imagine your name is Thomas Jordan Hickenlooper and it’s a family tradition to pass the father’s name along to the first son. But you didn’t enjoy sharing your name with your father and don’t want to repeat that awkward scenario with your son or daughter.

Here’s a list of initial-name options for the initials TJ that you might want to consider: T. J. , or Teej or Tejay or Teejay or Tee Jay or T. Jay or T. Jaye. (FYI, I prefer Teejay to Tejay, because you’ll know how to pronounce it when you read it.) Below is a set of options for 22 different two-letter initial combinations. To prevent teasing, I deleted  Peejay or Jaypee as options.

As you can see, many of these initial names are gender-neutral in that they are likely to work well for either boys or girls.  However, some of the names may work better for girls (e.g., Jaye P., P. Jaye, Ceejay, Kaycee, Deecee or DeeDee) and some may work better for boys (e.g., Ace, Ajay, Jeep, Jay P., Pete, Peej, or Zed).

Initial Names

AC or Ace or Acee or A. Cee

AJ or Aje or Ajay or A. Jay

BJ or Beej or Beejay or B. Jay

D. D. Deed or DeeDee

C. J. or Ceej or Ceejay or C. Jay or C. Jaye

D. C. or Deece or Deecee or Dee Cee or D. Cee

J. C. or Jayce or Jaycee or Jay Cee or Jaye Cee or J. Cee

J. D. or Jade or Jayde or Jaydee or J. Dee

J. P. or Jeep or Jay P.

J. T. or Jaytee or J. Tee or Jay Tee or Jaye Tee or Jay T. or Jaye T.

K. C. or Kayce or Kaycee or Kay Cee or K. Cee

K. T. or Kayte or Kaytee or Kay Tee or K. Tee

M. B. or Embee or Em Bee or M. Bee

M. J. or EmJay or EmJaye, or M. Jay or M. Jaye

M. T. or Emtee or Em Tee or M. Tee

P. J. or Peej or  P. Jay or P. Jaye

P. T. or Pete or P. Tee or

M. Q. or Em Q. or M. Queue

Q. T. or Cuetee or Qtee or Q. Tee

T.D. or Teedee or T. Dee

T. J. or Teej or Tejay or Teejay or Tee Jay or T. Jay

X. T. or Extee or Ex Tee or X. Tee

Z. D. or Zed or Zeedee or Zee Dee or Z. Dee

P.S. Initial names that “stand for something”:  I just added T.D. (which also means “touchdown”), so it’s a great name for a family of football “nuts.” I thought of adding P.S. (which also means post script) but it sounds to much like B.S. (which also means bullshit) so I don’t want to suggest it. Another set of initials which has another meaning is Q.T. (which also means either quiet–as in secret–or cute). Initials that have another meaning–like the ones I have listed in this post script are an especially good way to go if you like the idea of initial names–because they aren’t just cute they also stand for something.

But now that we’re on this topic, don’t get carried away. Avoid picking initial names that stand for something most people find unpleasant. I’ve already mention B. S. in this context. Other initial names that could backfire are M. S., S. T. D., or F. U.–to name just a few which come quickly to mind.

P.P.S. Just thought of another benefit of initial names: They can be very versatile in that they are short and snappy like nicknames, but the initials also convey a sense of formality (as though they stand for impressive, formal names which, for the sake of humility, were not used).

Hunter Mahon Walked Away from $1 Million to Attend the Birth of His Daughter

I was watching the RBC Canadian Open (golf tournament) on Saturday afternoon when a dramatic and touching moment occurred. Hunter Mahan was 13-under par, on top of the leaderboard by 5 strokes. Suddenly he got a call from his wife who was going into labor. I imagine she asked him if he could join her in hospital for the big moment, if at all possible.

Mahon walked away from a big lead in a prestigious tournament (with a $1 million dollar check for the winner) and flew back to the hospital in time to join his wife for the birth of their baby girl, Zoe Olivia (very early on Sunday morning)–what is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The birth was announced on Sunday when the tournament resumed. Mahon received high praise for flying home to be with his wife a sentiment shared by the viewing audience and the golfers whose chances of winning had suddenly improved.

More good news: The Mahons picked a cute name that should wear well for their daughter. Zoe is a lovely Greek name that means “life.” It’s ranked in the top-35, but it’s not so popular that Zoe’s friends will share the same name. Olivia is an extremely popular name, but it’s also an elegant name that goes well with Zoe and Mahon for use on formal occasions.

It was a pleasure to watch Hunter do the right thing by pulling out of the tournament on Saturday and to learn, on Sunday, that everything had turned out so well for him and his family.

Even though Brant Snedeker won the prize money, Hunter and Kandi Mahon came out ahead–sharing an experience that money can’t buy. But I’d very be surprised if they don’t receive an extremely generous baby-shower gift from the Snedekers.