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21 Short Unisex Baby Names, Because Less Is More

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I admit I went old-school when it came to naming my son and daughter and chose names that were unmistakably "boy" and "girl.” But I completely understand why so many parents opt for unisex baby names — and there are days when I think it might have been nice if I'd done it, too.

Some parents just like the sound of gender-neutral names, especially the shorter ones that have a snappy sound to them (Oak, Rory, Remy). Others give their kids Gaelic or English surnames that reflect their family heritage. Parents of girls may choose a name like Bailey, River, or Ellery simply to help their daughters stand out among all the Isabellas and Emmas they're likely to meet at the park or in their playgroups.

Having a neutral name could also be freeing for a child in a time when the very nature of gender identity is being examined and redefined. The idea of humanity having both masculine and feminine energies is nothing new — it's one of the Seven Principles of Hermeticism, a spiritual philosophy based on ancient Greek and Egyptian theology that promotes the quest to balance body and soul — but only recently has our society started to be more open-minded and vocal about gender fluidity.

So if you're putting together your baby-name list, here are some of the coolest and cutest options that suit boys and girls equally.

1. Max

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This nickname for Maximilian, Maxwell, or Maxine — all of which mean "the greatest," — is short, sweet, and sounds cool for any child. You can keep it short and sweet and name your child Max or give them a longer version of the name so that they have a formal option to also go by if they so choose.

2. Drew

Although Drew, the nickname for Andrew, was once solidly a boys-only name — its very meaning is "manly," – it is now a great choice for girls, too. Drew Barrymore is one iconic celebrity with the cool name, and in a total adoption of the gender-neutral trend, Jessica Simpson named her adorable daughter Maxwell Drew.

3. Tay

The shortened version of Taylor (meaning, as you'd expect, "tailor”) is a great unisex option for parents who want a fresher sound. It can also be spelled with an E, as in Taye Diggs. Taylor is also a great short unisex name that can easily be shortened to Tay, depending on your child’s preference.

4. Devin

Devin has a poetic ring to it, which isn't surprising; it comes from a Gaelic word for "poet." Babycenter reports that the name is a more popular choice for boys than girls, but still fitting for either one. There are various ways you can spell this one, too: Devon, Devan… choose what looks best to you.

5. Dylan

The name of a legendary Welsh sea god, Dylan was the 31st most popular boy's name on Nameberry last year. But it can work for a girl as well; House of Cards star Robin Wright chose it for her now-adult daughter. And if you or your partner are fans of Bob Dylan, you can use it as an homage to your favorite artist.

6. Avery

Avery is a perfect choice for Tolkien fans: One of the origins of the name is French for "ruling with elf-wisdom.” Avery currently holds the #17 spot on BabyCenter's popularity list for girls. And for those of you old enough to remember Murphy Brown, you might recall that Murphy named her baby son Avery after her own mother.

7. Jai

Looking for something a little less overused than Jayden? This variation, from the Sanskrit for "victory," works for both boys and girls, and it’s a fitting name for your little champion. As a twist, you could pronounce it to rhyme with "eye."

8. Jagger

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Long before a certain Rolling Stone rocked the name, Jagger was an old English occupational word for "carter." Although Nameberry reported that Jagger is used 20 times as much for boys as for girls, we might be seeing it more often in pink nurseries in years to come. Ashlee Simpson chose it for her daughter, after all.

9. Blue

Thanks to Beyonce and Jay-Z, Blue has potential to become the trendy color name for girls. For boys, it seems to be a more popular choice for a middle name (see: Alicia Silverstone's son, Bear Blu, and Cher's son Elijah Blue), but it deserves to get top billing now. If Blue’s not quite your hue, but you want to name your child after a color, there are plenty of short and sweet options: Red, Hazel, and Sage, just to name a few.

10. Elliot

A variation of Elijah, Elliot means "The Lord is my God.” The character of Elliot on the comedy Scrubs might account for the name's climb in popularity for girls since 2000. Parents can add or subtract Ls and Ts, or shorten the name to El, Elle or Ellie.

11. Harley

From the English for "long field" or "hare clearing," Harley has a decidedly cool edginess for either gender. Although its association with motorcycles made it a more masculine choice years ago, there are now plenty of parents who are opting for this name for their little girl.

12. Sky

If you love to gaze at sunrises or a starlit night, then this "heavenly" name is a perfect choice for your little son or daughter. It's less flower-child-y than other nature-based names (like Willow and Rain which are also cool monikers), and if you're a musical theatre buff, you know that Sky is also the Guys and Dolls character made famous by Marlon Brando. For a girl, the spelling Skye adds a slightly more feminine look.

13. Wylie

Wylie (English for "from the tricky river") has been gaining popularity for both boys and girls throughout this decade, according to Names.org. Still, it's far less common than other names, so you can give it to your newborn without worrying that he or she will be one of a dozen Wylies in the nursery.

14. Sam

Are Samantha or Samuel (from the Hebrew for "His name is God") on your baby name list? Consider this: The Social Security Administration, which tracks the 200 most popular names of each decade, reported that both names rank in the top 30 of the 2010s. If you know that you're going to be calling your little one Sam anyway, why not cut to the chase and just go with the nickname?

15. Charlie

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Another totally cute alternative to the full names Charles (from the German, meaning "free man") or Charlotte. Celebs like Tiger Woods and Sarah Chalke chose it for their sons, but it's become even more popular as a girl's name more recently. You really can’t go wrong with a timeless name like this.

16. Lee

As unisex names go, Lee has it all. It appeals to nature-lovers (it's English for "meadow"), and has a light-yet-strong sound. Plus, it's not super-trendy, and it doesn't even crack the top 200 names of the last 17 years, according to the Social Security Administration. Plus when your children are of the age of filling out their own forms, they’ll thank you for keeping it short and sweet.

17. Quinn

From the Celtic for "wise," Quinn ranks a respectable 93th on the current BabyCenter popularity list as a girl's name, and it holds the 486th spot for boys. It's one of those Irish surnames that sounds good up front — some might even say better — and female Quinns on shows like Scandal, How I Met Your Mother, and Glee may have helped bump the name up the charts.

18. Kai

For the parents who love both nature and gender neutrality, Kai has it all: fun spelling, nice sound ("kye"), and has multiple meanings, all of which are quite beautiful: Kai means "willow tree" in Navajo, "sea" in Hawaiian, "forgiveness" in Japanese, and "earth" in Scandinavian countries. Whichever meaning you chose to go by when naming your baby Kai, you only have good options here.

19. Riley

Riley, from the Irish for "courageous", was more than twice as popular for girls as for boys in 2016, according to Names.org. It's still a strong choice for either gender, and has tons of spelling variations (Reilly, Rylea, Ryleigh, Rylee). If you want to keep your chid’s name short and sweet, there’s something really cool about simply naming them Ry.

20. Payton

In another gender-switch surge, the English name Payton is now way more popular as a girl's name than for boys. Use an E (as in Peyton) and it's even more popular for both sexes, and a good choice for football fans who adore Mr. Manning.

21. Alex

Another case of a nickname getting the stand-alone honors, Alex, from the Greek for "defending men." These days it’s basically undistinguishable as a boy’s or girl’s name, so if you want to steer away from the more gender-identifiable Alexander, Alexandra, or Alexis, Alex is the way to go.

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