9 Awesome Gender Neutral Baby Names

by Eliza Castile
JaCZhou/E+/Getty Images

Time for the understatement of the century: Being a feminist parent in a patriarchal society is tough. Even something as seemingly simple as choosing a gender neutral baby name can prove to be harder than it sounds. Considering how entrenched gender norms are in society, it's probably no surprise that most names follow a strict dichotomy. Although it's difficult to tell a baby's gender just by looking, gender-based names allow us to separate boys and girls (and therefore treat them differently) from the very beginning — but that just strengthens the argument for gender neutral names, don't you think?

After all, names are a pretty big deal; legally, children are stuck with them for the first 18 years of their lives, and they can have an astonishingly strong effect on the way people view each other. For instance, we tend to be attracted to people with similar names, and there's evidence that people respond more positively to easily-pronounced names than those that are less familiar. (Basically, we're all egotistical and lazy.) Names can provide all kinds of information: Ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and of course, gender. According to a 2009 study, female lawyers with masculine-sounding names were significantly more likely to become judges than their counterparts with more feminine names. This is known as the Portia Hypothesis, named after the Shakespearean heroine who disguised herself as a man, and it's far from the only way gendered names can affect our lives.

Whether parents are looking to make a feminist statement or simply want to give their babies the chance at an even playing field, gender neutral names are increasingly popular. I'm hardly a parent — I can barely take care of a house plant — but as a writer, I know my way around a good name. Let's take a look at nine particularly awesome gender neutral options below.

1. Quinn

As you'll quickly realize, many gender neutral names come from historical surnames. Quinn is an Anglicized form of the Irish surname Ó Cuinn, which means "descendant of Conn." These days, it's a little more popular among girls, but it's traditionally used as both a masculine and feminine name. (As an added benefit, your child can pretend they're named after Harley Quinn. It's a win-win.)

2. Addison

Although it literally means "Son of Adam," Addison experienced a surge in popularity for girls during the latter half of the 20th century. (According to Behind the Name, this could be due to its similarity to the feminine name Madison.)

3. Leslie

Perhaps the most well-known Leslie in current pop culture is the character Leslie Knope, but the name is actually derived from a gender neutral Scottish surname meaning "garden of holly."

4. Amari

Meaning "strength," Amari has origins in both Sanskrit and Yoruban languages. Since it began growing in popularity in the United States during the 1990s, the name has been used interchangeably among girls and boys.

5. Harper

Harper is an old English surname meaning, well, someone who plays or makes harps. In the United States, Harper is largely used as a girl's name, but it's not uncommon for boys.

6. Tatum

In Old English, Tatum meant "Tata's homestead." It's not exactly an illustrious origin, but it has a nice ring to it — and it's connected with People's Sexiest Man 2012, which is all the reason you need to name your child Tatum.

7. Hunter

Needless to say, Hunter comes from the English surname meaning someone who hunts for a living. Traditionally, it's used for boys, but it's becoming increasingly popular as a gender neutral option these days.

8. Azariah

A Hebrew name meaning "Yahweh has helped," Azariah was the name of a number of Old Testament figures. In the modern day, it's popular as both a feminine and masculine name.

9. Ariel

Although it's typically considered a girl's name today, Ariel is traditionally amasculine name. Besides, who wouldn't want to name their child after the Disney Princess with the best hair?

Of course, these are just examples of traditionally neutral names — there's no rule against using feminine names for boys, and vice versa. Naming your child is your business, and other people's opinions don't matter in the least.

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