17 Girl Names You Won't Believe Were Ever Used for Boys

Cameron and Charlie, Rowan and Riley … parents-to-be are lucky to have so many cool unisex names to choose from these days. But the trend toward these gender-neutral choices means that sometimes a baby name will shift almost completely from being used mostly by one gender to being predominantly used for the other. Take Reese, for example. According to data from the U.S. Social Security Administration, Reese was #418 of the top 1000 most popular baby names for boys, and stood at #886 for girls. Fast-forward to two decades later, and Reese is now #642 for males and #168 for girls. So while it’s still a truly unisex name, who knows if it will still be considered gender-neutral in another 20 years?

Related story

Balanced Baby Names for Your Little Libra

These fascinating shifts have led to many baby name “flip flops”. There are so many names that are so firmly entrenched in modern society as girl names that it’s hard to even imagine them ever being used for a boy (Margaret, anyone?!). But it has happened more often than you might think — and some of the names are completely surprising.

Many of these girls names that were once boy names — the majority of them, actually — began as surnames, which were then transferred to use as first (or “given”) names for males. Then sometime along the line, usually thanks to a female character in a novel, movie, or TV show being given a “male” name, it becomes popular for girls. And sometimes, as in the case of the names you’ll see here, the popularity for girls surpasses the original use so much that it almost entirely eclipses the fact that it was once used for boys.

Interestingly, you almost never see girl names becoming more popular for boys, with one notable exception: Tatum. It gained popularity as a female name thanks to child star Tatum O’Neal, and has been in the top 1000 girl names since 1994. But in 2010, it appeared on the boy charts as well, and has consistently risen since that time. As of right now, it’s nearly as popular for boys as it is for girls — and since Khloé Kardashian used it for her son in 2022, we’re predicting a bump in usage that will equal, if not surpass, its standing on the girl name charts.

For now, though, we’re examining some of the girl names that were boy names … and wondering which will be the next to make the shift. Taylor? Harper? Addison? Only time will tell.


  • Courtney

    A newer example, but still relevant, Courtney has been on the popularity charts (for boys!) since at least 1900, peaking in 1980 when it reached as high as #256 on the male name popularity charts. For girls, it didn’t even hit the top 1000 until the 1960s. However, by 1990, it had reached #17 on the female name charts — and last year, there were 121 girl babies in the U.S. given the name Courtney, as opposed to just 54 boys.

  • Lauren

    You likely know at least one female Lauren, but a boy named Lauren is definitely gonna be harder to find. If it were the turn of the 20th century, though, the opposite would be true. For boys, it was on the popularity charts as early as 1900; for girls, it didn’t show up until 1946. But once Lauren began to be used for girls, its popularity far outshone any male Laurens — it peaked at #9, where the highest it ever got on the boy name charts was #625.

  • Allison

    Allison as a boy name was also in its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, peaking at #657 in 1903. For girls, it didn’t appear on the charts until 1946 — but once it took off as a girl name, it got as high as #30 out of the top 1000 when it peaked in 2009.

  • Shelby

    When we think of Shelby, we think of Steel Magnolias — don’t you? Apparently, so do lots of other people; after the movie’s release in 1989, the name Shelby (for girls!) enjoyed a nice bump in popularity, going from #229 to #33 in just two short years. However, in 1900, Shelby was strictly a boy’s name; for girls, it didn’t enter the charts at all until 1935. But while as a boy name it dropped from the charts in 1999, it remains popular for girls — #594 at last count.

  • Lindsay

    If you know a 1980s baby (or are one yourself!), you most definitely know a female Lindsay. For girls, the name peaked at #36 in 1983. However, it didn’t always have such a spotlight as a girl’s name; it didn’t even enter the female popularity charts until 1949, fell off in 1953, and didn’t show up again for girls until 1974. For boys, however, Lindsay was consistently in the top 1000 from at least 1900 until the 1960s. But by 1985, it was predominantly being used for girls, and its overwhelming popularity made it drop off the boy charts altogether.

  • Kelly

    Kelly was all the rage for girl babies in the ’60s and ’70s, reaching as high as #12 on the popularity charts in 1968 and again in 1978. But it didn’t make its debut on said charts until 1948. For boys, though, Kelly was consistently on the charts — every single year — from 1900 (the beginning of the SSA’s data) onward, and was actually in the top 100 boys’ names in 1968. But after that, Kelly as a girl name started to gain major traction, and as a boy name it fell swiftly in popularity until it disappeared from the charts entirely in 2002. 

  • Beverly

    Beverly? BEVERLY?! Yes — believe it or not, there were boys named Beverly. In fact, it was strictly a male name in the 19th century. George Barr McCutcheon’s 1904 novel Beverly of Graustark has been attributed with its first usage as a female name, but in 1905 it was #594 on the boy name popularity charts, and peaked in 1915 at #523. It stayed on the charts as a popular boy name until finally switching fully to the other side in 1955.

  • Meredith

    Image Credit: SheKnows

    If you live in the U.S., chances are good that all the Merediths you know are female. In Wales, though, it’s still used as a masculine name — just like it was before the mid-1920s in the United States. In fact, it was consistently in the top 1000 most popular boy names from 1901-1955, peaking in 1941 at #582. It didn’t appear on the girl name charts until 1910, but it got way more popular for girls than it ever did for boys, peaking in 1980 and ’81 at #140.

  • Vivian

    Vivian has been used as a boy name since the Middle Ages. In the U.S., it was at its most popular for males between 1900-1910, when it reached as high as #513 of the top 1000. Once it began to be used as a female name, though, it reached much higher popularity — and in fact has been popular again in recent years, currently hovering just outside the top 100.

  • Whitney

    Image Credit: SheKnows

    We have ’60s-era actress Whitney Blake to thank for popularizing Whitney as a female name — and then singer Whitney Houston for giving it a boost in the ’80s, when it reached its peak at #32. Before these high-profile female Whitneys, though, it was a boy’s name. Never more popular than #562, but rarely — if ever — used for girls until the 1960s.

  • Celeste

    When you think of Celeste, you typically think of it as a feminine name — because here in the United States, it always has been. But Celeste started out as a male name: a form of the Latin name Caelestis. And while it never reached top 1000 status in terms of popularity in this country, it’s still used as a boy name in some European countries. Funny, considering that it’s extremely popular for girls here, currently in the top 300.

  • Mackenzie

    Even the meaning of the name Mackenzie indicates that it was originally used for boys: it means “son of Coinneach” (the Gaelic Coinneach is usually anglicized as Kenneth). It was in the top 1000 male names from 1985-2001. However, ’70s-era actress Mackenzie Phillips has been credited with popularizing the name for girls, after appearing on One Day at a Time and American Graffiti. And for girls, it’s still popular — within the top 150.

  • Stacy

    Stacy entered the boys’ top 1000 in 1903, though it was used for boys as far back as Medieval times as a short form of Eustace. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it gained any traction as a girl name — but now, almost all the people given the name Stacy (and Staci, and Stacey, and Stacee) are girls.

  • Ashley

    Image Credit: SheKnows

    Ashley was the NUMBER ONE girls’ name in 1991 and 1992, and in the top ten until 2006 — so it’s hard to fathom that it was ever a boy name to begin with. But Ashley was more commonly bestowed upon boy babies until as recently as the 1960s. A good example of this is the aristocratic (male!) character Ashley Wilkes from 1939’s Gone With the Wind. 

  • Margaret

    While Margaret didn’t technically originate as a boy name, it’s still a surprise to know that it has ever been considered unisex at all — and was, in fact, consistently in the top 1000 most popular names for boys for nearly 50 years, from 1900-1943, reaching as high as #392! Last year, though, there were zero baby boys given the name Margaret in the U.S. … so we can safely say it’s definitely not a gender-neutral choice these days.

  • Leslie

    Image Credit: SheKnows

    If you grew up anywhere near the 1980s and are familiar with actor Leslie Nielsen, it won’t come as too much of a shock to know that Leslie was once used predominantly for boys. In fact, it was in the top 100 most popular boy names from 1900-1910. Still, as overwhelmingly feminine as it is today, it’s harder to imagine anybody giving the name Leslie to a boy in modern times. 

  • Tracy

    Image Credit: SheKnows

    Tracy came on the radar as a girl name in the 1940s, after the 1940 film The Philadelphia Story featured a female character named Tracy Lord. Prior to that, though, it was used for boys, reaching its peak in 1967 when it cracked the top 100. After that year, it declined until it fell out of the boys’ top 1000 entirely in 1999. For girls, however, once it became popular it became popular, reaching as high as #10 in 1970.

Source: Read Full Article