Whether it’s Frankie, Alex or Charlie, unisex baby names have been popular for years now with parents looking to everything from family tradition to current events to help inspire their choices.
Unlike the trend for double barrel baby names, it’s not clear when the practice of giving children unisex names began exactly. For instance, the name Lindsay is a centuries-old surname associated with a clan in Scotland. However, the name has been given to both men and women as a first name for generations now. What we do know is that there’s been a huge increase in the number of unisex baby names making the list of most popular baby names year after year.
As the Office of National Statistics‘ baby name records don’t explicitly state the most popular unisex baby names, we’ve rifled through the name data for the last five years and found them. These are the 50 most common unisex baby names in the UK, some of which might surprise you.
Most popular unisex baby names
It may not surprise you to know, though, that traditional boys and girls’ names still dominate the list of top 10 baby names. The ONS released their latest set of data on baby names in 2020, referencing the previous year’s most commonly given names. They found that Oliver was the most popular name for a boy while Olivia, its female counterpart, took the top spot on the girls’ list in England and Wales.
While Freya and Lily entered the top 10 list, demoting the girls’ names Ella and Emily in turn. But there weren’t any new entries for the boys as the name Arthur continued to rise on the rankings and is currently now at its highest position since the record began in 1904.
So if you’re looking for unique baby names, it’s certainly worth considering going for a unisex baby name as they’re considerably less popular than the classic boys and girls’ names.
Although whether you’re legally allowed to give your child a gender neutral name depends on where you live. In a few countries – including Portugal, Denmark and Iceland – it’s actually illegal to give your child a unisex name. In Germany, you have to submit your proposed unisex name to local registrars who will decide if it’s appropriate. These laws all come under the countries’ own naming policies which are enforceable by law, to supposedly prevent the children from being bullied later in life for an “unconventional” name.
We may recognise that there’s actually nothing very unconventional about a unisex baby name now, especially as some parents are actually choosing to raise their child gender neutral as well. But why do people choose a unisex name if there’s the chance of a negative reaction? Well, the thoughts on this one vary and it entirely depend on the parents.
Sophie, a mum-of-two from London, explains that her decision to call her daughter Robin was an important one. “My dad’s name was Robin and he died when I was quite young. I always wanted to pass the name on if I had a son. But that didn’t happen – I have two girls! I don’t want any more kids so when my second daughter was born, my husband and I decided to just give her [the name] anyway,” she tells GoodtoKnow.
“She’s six now and no one’s ever said anything about it,” Sophie adds. “People spell it wrong quite a lot because the name normally has a ‘y’ in it. We wanted to keep it like my Dad’s was spelt though.”
While some people like their children’s names to be precisely feminine or masculine, others like the ambiguity. “I’ve always liked the name Ray,” explains Sonia, who gave birth to her first child earlier this year. “Like a ray of sunshine, light…I’ve just always liked it. It was only recently really that someone said it wasn’t a girls’ name. It was obviously a girl’s name to me.”
Sonia says that at first she considered changing her baby’s name spelling to ‘Rae’, which is typically the female spelling of the name. “But I thought, ‘no, I like the name and I don’t want to spell it differently just because some people don’t get it’. Now I like that it’s not obvious because it will be a way for her to stand out from the crowd when she’s older.”