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Is Asante a unisex name?

Asante is traditionally a male name of African origin that means “thank you” in the Akan language spoken in Ghana. However, like many names, it has been adopted as a unisex name and given to both boys and girls in recent years.

The history and meaning behind the name Asante

Asante has its roots in West Africa as a name used among the Akan people of Ghana. The largest ethnic group in Ghana, the Akan have a tradition of using names with rich symbolic meaning that reflect desired virtues. Asante comes from an Akan word meaning “thank you.” It is related to the word sankɔfa, which conveys the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past.

Naming a child Asante expresses gratitude to God for the birth of the child. Traditionally, only boys received the name because the Akan culture is patrilineal, meaning inheritance and ancestry are traced through the male line. Girls would receive female versions of virtuous names like Akosua, meaning “born on Sunday,” or Aba, meaning “born on Thursday.”

The strong meaning behind Asante makes it a cherished name choice for many African families. It represents virtues like gratitude, history and spirituality.

The popularity of Asante as a boy’s name

Asante has been used as a given name for boys throughout areas of West Africa. It can also be found as a surname in Ghana. While not nearly as common as names like John, Michael or David, Asante has a long history of use by African American families celebrating their heritage.

In the U.S., Asante began appearing as a boy’s name on the Social Security Administration’s baby name lists in the early 1970s. Usage peaked in 1974 when it was the 853rd most popular name for boys, with 116 baby boys named Asante that year. The name has remained near the bottom of the top 1000 most popular boy names in the U.S. since then.

Asante popularity for boys over time:

Year Babies Named Asante Rank
2021 117 1138
2020 97 1285
2019 110 1165
2018 128 1085
2017 128 1066
2016 141 1001

While it never reached the top 1000 most popular names, Asante has been given to over 18,000 American boys since records began in 1880. It reaches its highest popularity among African American boys, ranking between #300-#500 in recent years.

The rise of Asante as a unisex name

Though historically male, Asante began to be used for girls in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. This reflects both its rising visibility as an African American name and broader trends giving traditionally male names like Taylor, Morgan and Cameron to girls.

Use of Asante for girls grew slowly at first. By the 1990s it was among the top 4000 names for girls in the U.S. and it entered the top 1000 girl’s names for the first time in 2015. In 2021, Asante ranked #656 for girls with 210 babies given the name. It ranked only #1138 for boys the same year.

Asante popularity for girls over time:

Year Babies Named Asante Rank
2021 210 656
2020 247 609
2019 263 581
2018 260 592
2017 231 630
2016 182 714

While more popular for girls today, Asante is still used for both genders. It joins names like Quinn, Riley and Rowan that transcend gender boundaries.

Reasons for Asante’s growing use as a unisex name

There are several factors that help explain Asante’s evolution into a name given to both boys and girls.

1. Appreciation for its African heritage

Asante retains a strong connection to its Ghanaian roots. For many African American parents, choosing Asante reflects pride in their culture and a desire to pass on traditional names. Its rich meaning also makes it appealing.

2. Sounds gender neutral

Names ending in the “A” sound like Andrea or Nicola are more often female, while names ending in “O” like Marco or Milo skew male. Asante’s “Eh” ending puts it in a gender neutral auditory space, similar to popular unisex names like Jesse, Riley, or Harley.

3. Lacks obvious gender associations

Asante is a fresh name without strong ties to figures of either gender. This gives it an ambiguous quality that allows flexibility in usage for boys and girls.

4. Rarity and uniqueness

Part of Asante’s appeal is that it remains uncommon compared to other names. Its uniqueness makes it interesting for parents seeking an unconventional name. Using a rare name like Asante for either gender defies conventions in a positive way.

Arguments for and against Asante as a unisex name

There are reasonable cases to be made both for and against using Asante as a unisex name.

Arguments for:

  • Its history as a male name from Africa gives it gravitas that unisex inventions lack.
  • The positive symbolism of the name’s meaning applies equally to boys and girls.
  • Rising use for girls keeps its male identity intact while making space for feminine bearers.
  • Gender neutral names allow children flexibility in identity expression.

Arguments against:

  • Continued much higher use for boys means it is still viewed predominantly as a male name.
  • Some feel gender neutral names counteract hard-won distinctions between male and female identities.
  • The name’s African heritage and meaning may hold more significance for boys.
  • Rarity as a girl’s name means constant explaining and misgendering is likely.


At one time exclusively male, Asante now sits on the line between masculine and feminine names. Its rich history and symbolic meaning ensure it retains a grounded identity even as gender conventions shift. Arguments exist both for and against Asante as a truly unisex name. But its attractive sound and aura of gratitude ensure it will continue appealing to progressive parents seeking the right name for their child, whether boy or girl.