Not so long ago, when you had a baby,
you picked a name purely based on their gender. Boy baby: boy name. Girl baby: girl name. And at the time, parents who chose to give their babies short gender-neutral names sometimes had to deal with cutting comments and snarky looks from people who thought traditional was totally the way to go. But that’s not the case anymore, as many parents are looking for short unisex baby names (with one or two syllables) as top contenders to call their kid. Although any name, in theory, can be a unisex baby name, you might want to consider adding some of the ones below to your baby naming list.
Why have unisex baby names become more popular? It’s probably due to a few reasons. Some parents simply like the sound of gender-neutral names,
especially the shorter ones that have a snappy sound to them (Oak, Rory, Remy). Others might want to give their child a name that reflects their heritage and, welp, it just happens to be a name that was once associated with a certain sex that is the opposite of their baby’s. And then, there are the parents who want their children to be free to explore their own gender identity from the jump, starting with their name.
So if you're putting together your baby name list, here are some of the coolest and cutest short unisex baby names that suit both boys and girls equally — and beautifully.
1 River Tuan Tran/Moment/Getty Images
Much like the name connotes, River means, well, river. It’s a short unisex baby name of British origin, and while it was once more popular for boys, it’s also becoming equally common for girls, too. It’s a great pick for parents who want a nature-inspired name.
When Baby is born with red hair, Rowan can be the right name. Of both English and Irish origins, the name was often used as a surname before becoming a first name. In Ireland, Rowan means “red-haired,” since it derives from the Irish name Ruadhán.
While the origin of the name Blake is pretty straightforward (it’s British), its meaning isn’t so clear cut. In some instances, Blake means “dark,” “bright,” or “black,” while in other cases it can mean “white,” “shining,” and “pale.”
Although you might not have realized it, Harper is one of those occupational names, much like Baker, Taylor, or Smith are. And as for Harper, the name means “someone who plays the harp.” It’s a gender-neutral name of English origin that could be good for parents who are musically inclined.
Even though it might mean “son of the red-haired one,” Flynn is a unisex baby name. It is of Irish origin and popular for both boys and girls. Disney fans might recognize the name Flynn Rider from the Disney movie
Tangled. 6 Grey
Color names (like Violet, Ash, or Amber) are growing in popularity, and Grey is certainly no exception. It means exactly what you’d think — the color grey. It’s up to you to determine if you’ll spell the name with an “a” or an “e.”
A couple of countries are fighting to claim Adrian as their own. Adrian is a Latin name that means “son of Adria,” but it can also derive from the Greek meaning “rich.” Although some might think that it’s other meaning of “a man from Hadria” would make it a boy’s name, Adrian is a very common girl’s name, too, spelled as is or as Adrienne.
There’s no denying the joy that comes with the birth of a baby. You can capture all of those amazing emotions with Asher, a Hebrew name that means “happy” and “blessed.” It’s also a Biblical name, since Asher was the eighth son of Jacob.
In the Bible, Zion means “highest point” which is just how you might feel when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. A gender-neutral name, Zion is of Hebrew origin and means “Israel.”
Long before a certain Rolling Stone rocked the name, Jagger was an old English occupational word for "carter." It’s interesting to note that a carter is someone who drives a cart that is drawn by a beast of burden — which just so happens to be the name of a popular Rolling Stones song, too.
Move over, Pixar-inspired sea monsters. The name Luca is of Latin origin and means “bringer of light”. It can also mean “sacred wood” or “man from Luciana”, an area in southern Italy.
This nickname for Maximilian, Maxwell, or Maxine — all of which mean “the greatest” — is short, sweet, and sounds cool for any child. As for its origin, the name Max is Latin and derives from the name Maximilian.
Once a nickname for Andrew, Drew was once solidly a boys-only name — its very meaning is "manly," after all. But lately, it’s become 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, too.
Taylor is one of those occupational surnames that has ties back to France and Old English. (Swap out the “y” in Taylor and you get “tailor”). But beyond business, Taylor is an awesome option for parents who are looking for a unisex name. Add an “e” at the end of the nickname Tay and you get Taye, as in Taye Diggs, or leave it up to your child to decide what they want to be called.
Devin has a poetic ring to it, which isn't surprising; it comes from a Gaelic word for "poet." You can spell Devin a variety of ways, such as Devon, Devan, Devyn, but no matter which spelling you choose, it’s bound to be pretty poetic.
Although it means “son of the sea,” don’t let that stop you from giving your girl (or boy) the name Dylan. The name, which originates from Welsh, became a pretty popular name for both boys and girls in the 90s, which was around the same time that
Beverly Hills, 90210 (featuring Luke Perry as heartthrob Dylan McKay) was on TV. 17 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."
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 cute (and colorful) unisex baby name options, like Red, Hazel, and Sage, just to name a few. 19 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.
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. 21 Wylie
Wylie (English for "from the tricky river") has been gaining popularity for both boys and girls throughout this decade. 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.
Are Samantha, Samson, or Samuel (from the Hebrew for "His name is God") on your baby name list? With just three letters, Sam is certainly a solid (if not super popular) choice. 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? And if you want to make Sam stand out even more, consider Sammy, Sami, Sammi, and Sammie, which are sweet nicknames, too.
Another totally cute alternative to the full names Charles (from the German, meaning "free man") or Charlotte is Charlie. 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 can opt for non-traditional spellings of the name Charlie, like Charlee, Charli, Charly, and Charleigh.
As unisex names go, Lee has it all. The name Lee derives from the English word “laye” which means “clearing in the woods” or “meadow”, so it can appeal to parents who are looking for nature-sounding names. But you don’t have to stick to the original spelling. Lee has spelling variations like Leigh, Li, Ley, or Lei to make this uncommon name even more unique.
Once an Irish surname, Quinn has come a long way, baby. The name means “wise,” “sense,” or “reason,” all good qualities you’ll want to bestow upon your baby. It’s now a gender-neutral name, since female Quinn’s on shows like
Scandal, How I Met Your Mother, and Glee may have helped bump the name up the charts. 26 Kai
For the parents who love both nature and gender neutrality, Kai has it all: a fun spelling and a pretty sound ("kye"). It also 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.
The name Riley can claim origins in both England and Ireland. When it comes to the Emerald Isle, Riley derives from the word “raghalach,” which means “valiant.” But in England, Riley derives from the Old English words “rye” and “leah,” which mean “wood” or “clearing.” The strong and natural name is still a strong choice for either gender, and has tons of spelling variations (Reilly, Rylea, Ryleigh, Rylee). And there’s something to be said for simply naming them Ry.
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 becomes even more gender-neutral — and a good choice for football fans who adore Mr. Manning. As for its meaning, Payton means “fighting man’s estate” and is considered a variant of the Irish name Patrick.
Another case of a nickname getting the stand-alone honors is Alex. Of Greek origin, Alex (short for Alexander) means "defender of humankind." 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.
When you’re planning on picking out a name for your baby, be sure to include some unisex baby names as options. That way, your child will learn to love their name for what it represents and never feel limited by its potential gender constraints.
This article was originally published on
July 11, 2018