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.