Ken was once big for boys. From Kenneth to Kent to Kennedy, the Ken-cluster was solidly masculine. But ever since the 90s, file today’s choice in the gender neutral column – if not gone to the girls entirely.

Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting Kendall as Name of the Day.

Strictly speaking, Kendall isn’t a name for a person at all. It’s a place name.

Think Kent, as in the river in England. Add in dell, as in valley. (As in Farmer-in-the-Dell.) Say them together three times fast and you get Kendall. (Or the less common, but equally valid Kendal.)

It’s a smoosh that’s been in long use – so long that the town in Cumbria is only sometimes mentioned on baby name sites. (Apparently Kendal – which uses the single-l spelling, thanks very much – is famous for peppermint cake. Sir Edmund Hillary ate it to fuel his ascent up Everest.)

Plenty of other places are called Kendal or Kendall, too, as far away as Jamaica and South Africa, Florida and Wisconsin.

Off the map, Kendall has also stood in as Anglicization of the medieval Welsh name Cynddelw.

Famous bearers of the surname have included:

  • Country music’s father-daughter duo, Royce and Jeannie Kendall, known as The Kendalls, were big in the 1970s and 80s;
  • Amos Kendall was an advisor to Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. He also helped establish the future Gallaudet University in Washington DC;
  • Athletes have worn the name, including father and son Major League baseball players, Fred and Jason Kendall.

Kendall was already gaining in use for girls when All My Children introduced bad-to-the-bone Kendall Hart.

First ranking in the US Top 1000 for girls in 1964, Kendall’s climb started in 1980 – the decade that gave us the Rubik’s cube, Flashdance and Madison. (Bailey, Mackenzie, Taylor and Aubrey also caught on for daughters in the same era.)

From 1993 to 1995, Kendall was a textbook soap opera villain. In 1992, she stood at #350. By 1994, she was #179. She peaked at #132 in 2005. By that time, the original Kendall left the series and returned – portrayed by another actress, and with a far-less-evil character.

Whether the rehabilitated Kendall inspired parents, or whether she just fit with the current trends is hard to say. It’s the name worn by one of the younger Kardashian sisters. (Kendall was born in 1995.) For many people, the name is reserved for girls.

But if Ashley and Kelly can be worn by boys, Kendall is even easier to imagine on a son. As a boys’ name, Kendall has ranked every year from 1924 right up through 2008. He stood at #645 last year – far from obscure.

Of course, on the girls’ side, Kendall ranked #148, with Kendal at #816. I’ve even spotted variants like Kyndall. (She’s one of a set of quintuplets from Texas – along with Kassidy, Kaydence, Rustin and Ryker – featured on a recent TLC special.)

Overall, it’s as appealing as many a place name/surname choice. If modern picks like Jaylon and Cayden are your style, Kendall manages to sound a smidge more distinctive – and look more sophisticated, too. And despite being more popular for girls, it still seems to wear well on a boy – who can always retreat to the diminutive Ken if he grows weary of being mistaken for his sister.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I must admit. I like it as a GP on a girl. I’d never use it, but I suppose I can see the appeal of it for other people. I do hear the ken doll thing too and I also hear candle.

  2. I also confess to hearing “ken doll” when saying this name out loud. In the late 90s / early 2000s there was a semi-popular female singer by the name of Kendall Payne. I liked a couple of her songs, but always pronounced her name “KAYN-dahl” in an endeavour to get away from the Barbie associations.

    I don’t think I could do it, no matter the sex.

  3. My mom and I were just discussing this name this morning. For some reason there were 3 male Kendal/Kendell’s in her very small midwestern highschool (she graduated in ’61.) And there were 2 in my even smaller highschool (early nineties.) I think it’s a perfectly nice name for a BOY, trashy name for a girl.

      1. Whether you think it or not, “trashy” isn’t a nice thing to say about a name. Surely there is a nicer way to phrase that.

  4. I agree about the “Ken doll” thing.

    I’ll admit, Kendall is one of those pleasant association names for me – the lovely, Southern-born, 60-something secretary at my graduate school was Kendall. Without her, I suspect I might look at this one less favorably. But she lent some real style to this name. I never asked her if she was troubled by the rise in use of Kendall – I’m not certain if she knew, really. She’s certainly the only 60-something female (or male) Kendall I’ve ever met!

  5. A lovely girl named Kendall babysat for my daughter briefly when I returned to work after maternity leave (she was born in the late 80s). I thought the name was unfortunate for her, since she was one of the only babysitters I interviewed who was responsible and had it together – but the name didn’t say that at all. I’ll be honest, I am not at all fond of the name, for a boy or girl. It immediately makes me think of Ken and Barbie (to me it sounds like someone saying “Ken doll” quickly). Therefore the name seems plastic and light-weight in my ears. I just don’t see the appeal.