Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Unisex -sons

There are a lot of names out there that end in -son. Originally, most (but not all) of those names were for sons named after their fathers. For example, Jackson means "son of Jack" and Anderson means "son of Andrew". The fact that there is a "son" in the name makes it seem masculine, but quite a few of these names are being taken over, or at least borrowed, by the girls. There are also a lot of -sen and -syn names that sound the same, but for this post we are just going to take a look at the -sons.

There are over 300 -son names in the 2012 Beyond the Top 1000 names list. I have gathered them all and decided to concentrate first on the names given to both boys and girls. Here they are with the number of births in 2012:

Addison 8122   169
Adison 126   12
Alison 1179   5
Allison 5387   8
Anderson 44   1239
Bryson 8   3995
Carson 151   4566
Cayson 5   247
Crimson 59   32
Dawson 31   1027
Edison 13   301
Ellison 234   43
Emerson 1301   828
Emmerson 134   9
Gibson 10   247
Grayson 177   4671
Greyson 40   2216
Harrison 15   2111
Hudson 72   4194
Jackson 22   12388
Jameson 46   1795
Jamieson 5   34
Jamison 47   530
Jason 6   5699
Jaxson 10   3634
Jaymeson 5   26
Kaison 5   149
Karson 63   833
Kayson 23   440
Lawson 17   487
Madison 11319   30
Maeson 10   50
Maison 18   202
Mason 80   18856
Mattison 73   6
Mayson 44   338
Morrison 8   51
Payson 111   59
Pearson 9   46
Peyson 19   16
Pierson 5   132
Reason 5   8
Tennyson 15   32
Tyson 5   1343
29078 73104

Just a few thoughts on the above...

Names Dominated by Girls
As seen by the numbers above, Addison and its spelling variations, Ellison, Emerson and its spelling variations, and Madison and its spelling variations are originally boy names taken over by girls.

Alison/Allison is a diminutive of Alice and therefore originally female. Crimson is a word name and therefore basically unisex.

The only other name on the list that is dominated by girls is one that stuck out to me: Payson/Peyson. Is its use solely due to the character on Make It or Break It? Is it used because it's a twist on Peyton? Is it used by parents who love the few US cities that also carry this name? I'm not sure if it was originally male or not, but it's used mostly on girls nowadays.

The rest of the unisex -sons are predominantly given to boys.

Boy Names on Girls
Some of these predominantly male names are a surprising find on girls. Girls named Emerson and Madison are expected, however girls named Harrison and Jackson are not. What makes some of these more "girl" than others? With the big 4 mentioned above, it is probably the feminine nicknames in Addie, Ellie, Emmy and Maddie. Jackie has been used as a girl nickname for years, as has Jamie and Andie, so why hasn't Jackson, Jameson or Anderson taken off with girls? Now that I think of it, Hattie would be a cute nickname for a girl Harrison (Harry or Henry... Harriet or Henrietta... Hattie). But the rest of the other male-dominated names listed above are pretty masculine. I'm sure some of them were named after a loved one, but in any case I would love to know the individual stories behind the names!

As a side note, I'm digging girls named Gibson and Tennyson.

What do you think about this list? Any observations, true loves, or true dislikes?

More analysis of names ending in -son later in the week...



  1. Great research, Kelli! Personally, I'd never use any of these (except Allison) for a girl. However, since they are considered somewhat unisex, I don't think I'd use them for a boy either. I'm just not very fond of them for a child of mine, but there are several that I like! Jackson is probably my favorite because I really like Jack. :)

    Kara @ The Art of Naming

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