Glee's Dianna Agron

It’s a stylish unisex surname name popular for boys and girls in recent years.

Thanks to Carolyn for suggesting Quinn as our Baby Name of the Day.

Long before head cheerleader Quinn Fabray dated football star Finn Hudson on television’s hit musical Glee, this one was holding steady as a gender neutral name.

Blame it on 1997’s Daria, an animated MTV series about teenage malcontent Daria Morgendorfer and her polar opposite sister, perky, none-too-swift cheerleader Quinn.

Or maybe blame it on this: two decades pre-Daria, child actress Quinn Cummings earned an Oscar nomination for her role as Lucy in 1979’s The Goodbye Girl.

Safe to say the name has a long history of use for girls.  She first appeared in the girls’ Top 1000 back in 1979, quickly faded, and then returned in 1995.  She’s risen to #153 in 2012.  It makes her a successor to Brooke, a forerunner for preppy, trim surname names like Blair and Sloane.

But don’t count Quinn out for boys, either.

Despite all of those girls, for many of us, the name reads male.  Maybe that’s because of The Mighty Quinn, Manfred Man’s hit single from 1968.  The lyrics are about an Eskimo.  Bob Dylan penned the song back in 1960, and it is generally believed that Dylan was influenced by actor Anthony Quinn’s performance in 1959 flick The Savage Innocents.  The character was called Inuk – a name that’s a little tougher to rhyme.

Quinn still ranked #321 for boys in 2012, and the Oscar-winning actor lends him a certain Hollywood appeal, a brother for Harlow or Gable.

Anthony was born Antonio in Mexico, but his grandfather was Irish – and yup, the actor’s stage name was borrowed straight from grandpa.  It comes from a Gaelic given name meaning chief, and has a history of use throughout Ireland.  You might also stumble across families answering to Quin, O’Quinn or similar variations.

Besides the actor, there are plenty of successful bearers of the surname, and many families with him on their trees.  It puts the name in the company of Riley, an Irish heritage choice that works for boys and girls.

Longer forms of the name have seen some use, too: Quinton ranked #526 for boys in 2012, Quintin #811, and the similar-sounding Quincy #633.  A few other variants have had a good run, like Quinlan.  The Quint- spellings add another shade of meaning to the name – connecting him to the Latin quintus – fifth, and the number five.

Plus, the letter Q is appealing – a high value Scrabble letter, the kind of name that fits with Zoe and Xavier.

Quinn’s a solid citizen these days, a name that works well for boys or girls.  It would be unfair to call the name fleeting or trendy. But it is right to say that it is a twenty-first century favorite, the kind of name that parents have embraced in recent years.  It’s thoroughly stylish and wearable.

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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 like Quinn, but I have a young cousin named Quinten so it would feel strange to use it. I lean girl for it, but would use it for either gender. We have a Parker and I also adore Dorian or Morgan for a brother or sister.