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P&J Investigations

A boy named Sue? Scotland’s most androgynous names

Emma Morrice analyses the names used more or less equally for boys and girls in the past 50 years reports.
Emma Morrice

A baby surrounded by alphabet letters and gender symbols.

In Scotland, baby names are incredibly diverse. Many are gender neutral – used for both baby boys and baby girls alike.

Some traditionally unisex names like Alex, Jamie, Jordan, Morgan and Ashley are still being used, while others have begun to emerge in more recent years.

We’ve looked at which names have been used more or less equally for boys and girls, and also how usage has changed over the years from 1974 to 2022.

We’ve also taken a look at the top 10 most popular names in Scotland, and analysed all the available data on the babies who have been given a name traditionally used for the opposite gender.

Unlike some countries, there are no rules in Scotland on what registered gender a child has to be to be given each name, and parents can call their child whatever they would like – but some are classically associated with a particular gender. 

What are the most gender neutral baby names?

Using baby name data released by National Records of Scotland, we looked at the names that had been used which were closest to equal.

There’s more than 65,000 unique names and many have only been used a handful of times, so to be more accurate, to be included names had to be used at least 50 times for each gender.

Then we calculated the difference between the number of boys and girls given the name – the ones with the smallest differences between names were then selected as the most androgynous.

Only one name had been used equal times for boys and girls – Beau.

Between 1974 and 2022, there’s been 344 babies given the name – 172 boys and 172 girls.

The other five that were most equal were Rylee, Niki, Sunny, Dara, Sammy and Rylie.

Dara, Rylee and Rylie are all relatively new names in Scotland, with Rylee only appearing in the early 2000s and Rylie in the late 1990s. Sunny has been around since the 80s, but only started to get more popular in the 2000s.

Meanwhile Niki and Sammy are less popular today than they were in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but are still in use.

Dara has been used 171 times – 86 times for boys and 85 for girls while Niki has been chosen 116 times, 57 boys and 59 girls.

Sunny has been used 104 times, 51 times for boys and 53 times for girls, and Sammy 108 times – 56 boys and 52 girls.

Meanwhile Rylee has been used 132 times, 59 for boys and 73 for girls and Rylie 122 times, with the split 71 for boys and 51 for girls.

Other names used quite equally for both genders of babies included River, Taylor, Corrie, Jaimie, Reese, Jackie, Wai, Ellis, Rowan, Baillie, Remy, Reagan and Ally.

The most popular out of all these names was Taylor, which had 1,926 uses for baby boys and 2,245 for baby girls.

The second most popular was Rowan, with 746 uses for baby boys and 1,179 for baby girls.

Actress Harley Quinn Smith
Actress Harley Quinn Smith

Ellis had 1,006 uses in baby boys and 895 in baby girls, while Harley had 671 in baby boys and 569 in baby girls.

‘Traditional’ androgynous names

Some of the names that are more traditionally gender neutral include Alex, Jordan, Morgan and Ashley.

But as other names have risen in popularity – are they still as well used as they were?

We’ve looked at the trends by name, and also the overall gender split.

While used for more than 800 baby girls, Jamie was the name that still had the most masculine uses at 16,958.

Jordan was also mainly used for baby boys, with 7,984 uses in boys and 723 in girls.

Meanwhile, Ashley had the most feminine uses, despite 266 baby boys being given the moniker. This compares to 5,775 baby girls.

Other popular uses for baby girls included Lindsay, with 2,807 uses for girls and 243 for boys, and Morgan, which had 2,815 for girls and 726 for boys.

Although all of the names are still in use, their popularity has been declining in recent years.

Alex peaked in popularity in 2008 for boys, and 2004 for girls, while Jordan was most popular for baby boys in 1993, and for girls in 1992 at 76.

Morgan saw a surge in 1999 for both boys and girls, while Ashley was most used for baby girls in 1987 and for boys in both 1982 and 1997.

Jamie was most popular in 1992, and for girls in 1990, and Lindsay peaked in 1984 for girls and 1974 for boys.

Is your child’s name on the list?

Check out our table below to see the names that have been used more than 50 times for each gender.

A boy named Sue?

As well as unisex names, there are also traditionally male and female names that have been given to both baby boys and girls.

No name is truly single gendered, but some are more associated with one gender over another.

The top 10 names in Scotland used the most for baby boys are David, James, Andrew, John, Christopher, Scott, Michael, Craig, Paul and Ryan.

But these names have also been given to baby girls.

Actor Ryan Reynolds and his daughter James.
Actor Ryan Reynolds and his daughter James.

There are 14 female Davids, 12 James’, seven Andrews, 18 Johns, 12 Christophers, seven Scotts, 11 Michaels, 12 Craigs, six Pauls and eight Ryans.

The top 10 names that have been used the most for baby girls are Emma, Laura, Sarah, Claire, Nicola, Jennifer, Sophie, Amy, Lauren and Rebecca.

Emma has been used six times for baby boys, and Laura eight times. There are five Sarahs, four Claires, 13 Nicolas, and three Jennifers. There are also two Sophies, two Amys, five Laurens and one Rebecca.

A stamp featuring singer Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash

Despite the Johnny Cash song A Boy Named Sue and some parents opting to give their babies names which are normally used for the opposite gender, there actually hasn’t been any boys in Scotland between 1974 and 2022 named Sue.

In point of fact – only 22 baby girls in Scotland have ever been named Sue.

Do you have a unique name? Or an interesting story behind why you picked the name for your baby? Get in touch with us if you’re interested in being featured in future articles in this series –

All of the data behind this series can be found on the data team Github page.

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