Unisex Names: Alexis

Alexis

After abruptly suspending my ‘Unisex Names’ series, I decided to restart it but instead of creating a post of this type every Saturday, it will be moved to the 4th Monday of every month.

So, this month’s unisex name is Alexis.

According to Behind the Name, it is:

From the Greek name Αλεξις (Alexis), which meant “helper” or “defender”, derived from Greek αλεξω (alexo) “to defend, to help”.

The original gender for Alexis is masculine, borne by several ancient writers including the 3rd century BC Greek comic poet.

You might expect that Alexis was masculine before turning feminine in the 20th century and it is partly true looking at the table below:

BEFORE 1915

E&W USA BC Ontario

South Australia

Male

126 388 1 31

0

Female

14 38 0 1

0

Ratio

90% M 91.1% M // 96.9% M

//

E&W – 1837-1915 (not counting people who don’t have middle names or have initials in them), USA – 1880-1915 (1920 census), BC – 1854-1903, ON 1869-1912 & SA – 1792-1915

Interestingly, while I was looking through the US census records for female Alexises, I noticed that a couple of them were born in Scotland. Results from Ancestry regarding (no-image) records from the 1901 Scotland Census and Select Births and Baptisms from 1564-1950 show that Alexis was a rare but mainly feminine name since around the early 19th century with a couple of female Alexises born around the late 18th century. On Scotlands People, you will find some examples of female Alexises in birth records in the mid and late 19th century.

Alexis continues to be mainly masculine for most parts of the English-speaking world throughout most of the first half of the 20th century, but come the 1940s and 1950s, Alexis makes a turn to the feminine side (at least in North America), thanks to Hollywood star Alexis Smith, who was born in Penticton, Canada as Margaret Alexis Fitzsimmons Smith.

Below are the statistics for the following years, 1966, 1973, 1980, 1996 and 2014 (2010 for Ontario):

1966

E&W

USA BC Ontario

South Australia

Male

32 103 <4 <4

0

Female

31 186 <4 7

1

Ratio

50.8% M 64.4% F // 77.8% F

//

1973

E&W USA BC Ontario

South Australia

Male

78 152 <4 <4

0

Female

34 491 8 19

0

Ratio

69.6% M 76.4% F 80% F 90.5% F

//

1980

E&W USA BC Ontario

South Australia

Male

67 350 8 6

1

Female

92 1,268 21 49

0

Ratio

57.9% F 78.4% F 72.4% F 89.1% F

//

1996

E&W

USA BC Ontario

South Australia

Male

19 1,795 <4 6

1

Female

56 16,587 51 192

5

Ratio

74.7% F 90.2% F 96.2% F 97% F

83.3% F

2014 (*2010)

E&W USA BC Ontario*

South Australia

Male

26 1,172 <4 19

0

Female

437 4,188 54 333

43

Ratio

94.4% F 78.1% F 96.4% F 94.6% F

100% F

Notice the difference in feminine-to-masculine ratios between North America and England & Wales. It was still somewhat masculine in England & Wales in the mid 1970s while it was mainly feminine in North America and it wasn’t until the 1980s that Alexis began taking a more gradual but absolute turn to the feminine side with the F-t-M ratio peaking in England & Wales in the current decade.

In case you’re wondering where Alexis was at in Scotland, here’s a nice little chart regarding its F-t-M ratio by year, starting in 1974.

alexisratioscotland

That’s the unisex post of the month. If you have any thoughts or questions about the name or the post in general, please comment below the sources.

Sources:

For Alexis’ meaning and history: Behind the Name
Available at ancestry.co.uk: England & Wales FreeBMD Birth Index (1837-1915) and England & Wales Birth Index (1916-2005)
Available at familysearch.com: British Columbia Birth Registrations (1854-1903), Ontario Births (1869-1912), Australia Births & Baptisms (1792-1981) and the 1920 United States Census
For USA: Social Security Administration
For England & Wales (1996 onwards): Office for National Statistics
For British Columbia (1915 onwards): Government of British Columbia
For Ontario (1917-2010): ontario.ca Male & Female
For South Australia (1944 onwards): South Australian Government Data Directory
For Scotland (1974 onwards): National Records of Scotland

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