Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Benjamin

Benjamin is a name borne from the Bible; he was the youngest son of Jacob’s 12 boys. His mother was Rachel who died giving birth to him in Genesis 35:18. “And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” The name “benoni” translates to ‘son of my sorrow’ – but his father did not want him to bear such an ill-omened name stemming from his mother’s death, so he called him “Benyamin.” The likely Hebrew translation of Benjamin is ‘son of the south’ since the child was Jacob’s only son born in Canaan, south of Mesopotamia. However, “yamim” is also thought to be a translation of the word ‘years’ in Hebrew, bringing another variant to the name’s meaning as ‘son of my old age’ referring to the fact that Benjamin was Jacob’s last child. Interestingly, in the Middle Ages (5th-15th centuries), the name was often given to boys whose mothers had died in childbirth. Today, it no longer bears such ill-fated associations, and is used widely in America and England, and in Scotland as an anglicized version of the Gaelic “Beathan” which ironically translates to “son of life.”

All About the Baby Name – Benjamin

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME BENJAMIN

The number Five personality loves the excitement of life and can easily adapt to all situations. As natural adventurers, these personalities thrive on the new and unexpected and prefer to be in constant motion. It makes them feel alive. They'll stir up some action if there's not enough around, and as inherent risk-takers they enjoy pushing the envelope. Naturally rebellious, the Five personality has no fear and never resists change.  Traveling and new experiences feed their souls. Fives are very social and attract friends with ease. People love to be around the Five fun-loving and exciting energy.  This is also a lucky number in numerology (like the Threes), so fortune seems to shine on them, helped along by their own optimism and good-nature. Fives have a quick wit, a cerebral mind, and are generally very persuasive. 

Popularity

OF THE BOY NAME BENJAMIN

Another very popular boy’s name, Benjamin has always maintained a position on the United States popularity graphs for over a century, averaging within a Top 100 spot. Since the mid-1970’s, Benjamin has enjoyed a place in the Top 30 names for boys; this timing may have something to do with the wildly popular 1967 film “The Graduate” and its leading character Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman). While Biblical in origin, the name Benjamin seems to transcend religion at this point and appears to be a popular choice by Christians, Jews and agnostics alike. There is something about this name that works for everyone. It has endurance without sounding trendy or old-fashioned, and it’s appealing in its many forms. The long and handsome version of Benjamin can easily be shortened to “Benjy” when the child is a youngster and to Ben when he wants to sound more sharp and masculine as an adult. No wonder it’s maintained its popularity!

Quick Facts

ON BENJAMIN

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

English

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

3

RANKING POPULARITY:

14

PRONUNCIATION:

BEHN-je-min

SIMPLE MEANING:

Son of the south or Son of my old age

Characteristics

OF BENJAMIN

Freedom-loving

Adventurous

Adaptable

Intellectual

Easygoing

Progressive

Sensual

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Benjamin

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME BENJAMIN

Benjamin (Benjy) Compson is a memorable character from Nobel Prize winning novelist William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" (1929). The novel opens from Benjy's point of view in a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Despite being speechless and mentally-challenged, he is also the only one "smart" enough to see the progressive decline of the Compson family. His acute sensitivity to order and chaos allows him to sense the presence of anything bad, wrong, or out of place despite him lacking immediate physicality. His only form of communication is to moan and cry, so he's symbolic of the impotence around him.

Benjamin Button is the central character in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 short story titled "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." In the story, Benjamin is born an old man and grows younger as the years persist. A truly memorable and delightful character, Benjamin amuses his reader as the absurdity of his situation unfolds. Even life in the reverse has the same challenges as it does forward!

Benjamin is the long-lived donkey who refuses to feel inspired by the Rebellion in George Orwell's novel, "Animal Farm" (1945). Of all of the animals on the farm, he alone comprehends the changes that take place, but he seems either unwilling or unable to oppose the pigs. Benjamin firmly believes that life will remain unpleasant no matter who is in charge.

Popular Songs

ON BENJAMIN

Benjamin Calypso
a song by Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Benjamin
an instrumental by YoYoMa

The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
a song by Iron Maiden

Famous People

NAMED BENJAMIN

Benjamin Franklin (inventor, founding father)
Benjamin Harrison (U.S. President)
Benjamin Bratt (actor)
Benjamin Disraeli (UK Prime Minister)
Benjamin Spock (pediatrician/author)
Benjamin Karl (Olympic snowboarder)
Benjamin Netanyahu (Israeli Prime Minister)
Benjamin Bernake (Chairman of the Fed/economist)
Ben Affleck (actor)

Children of Famous People

NAMED BENJAMIN

Gisele Bündchen;

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME BENJAMIN

One of the most celebrated American figures of all time, Ben Franklin was a jack of all trades. He represented the essence of what it means to be an American. A printer. A publisher. A scientist. An inventor. A postmaster. A legislator. A diplomat. A social activist. A Founding Father. Even with only a 5th grade education, Ben Franklin pulled himself up by the bootstraps and became a celebrated, intelligent, wealthy and important figure even during his own time. The man embodies the American ideals. He led both an ambitious life and a virtuous one. Benjamin Franklin was also one of the earliest abolitionists and a protector of Native American rights. His life alone is one of the most profound statements on what all Americans strive to be.

Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States. A Republican, he served between 1889 and 1893. He won the presidency through the electoral vote (Grover Cleveland had won the popular vote). Known as the "money president," Harrison is most remembered for enacting the McKinley Tariff which intended to protect the American worker and corporations by levying a high tax on foreign imports. This backfired, as consumer goods skyrocketed when foreign countries refused to export goods to the U.S. and American companies formed monopolies. The voters rebelled, and Harrison was a one-term president. A Civil War veteran himself, Harrison also instituted a Pension for vets that nearly bankrupted the country. Harrison was also the grandson of the 9th U.S. President, William Henry Harrison. While not considered one of the more distinguished Presidents, historians are taking a second look. Particularly at Benjamin Harrison's foreign policies and his fearlessness and activism in international affairs that ultimately would inspire Theodore Roosevelt.

One of the most celebrated American figures, Benjamin Franklin was a jack of all trades. He is the essence of what it means to be an American. A printer. A publisher. A scientist. An inventor. A postmaster. A legislator. A diplomat. A social activist. A Founding Father. Even with only a 5th grade education, he pulled himself up by the bootstraps and became a celebrated, intelligent, wealthy and important figure even in his own time. The man embodies the American ideals. He led both an ambitious life and a virtuous one. Benjamin Franklin was also one of the earliest abolitionists and a protector of Native American rights. His life alone is the most profound statement of what an American strives to be.

Benjamin Disraeli served as the United Kingdom's Prime Minister during two separate terms in the latter half of the 1800's. Disraeli is best known for being England's first and only Jewish prime minister (although he was baptized in the Anglican Church when he was 12). This oft-quoted, colorful man was known as a brilliant debater. His terms as PM were marked by bringing India and the Suez Canal under control of the crown. In return, the Queen gave him the title of Earl of Beaconfield. Once, in a heated debate in parliament, an adversary referred to Disraeli's Jewish ancestry in disparaging terms to which Disraeli responded: "Yes, I am a Jew and when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon."

St. Benjamin was a Christian Martyr who lived in Persia around the year 420 A.D. during a forty-year period when Christians were heavily persecuted and submitted to the cruelest tortures. Among those who suffered was St. Benjamin, a Deacon, who had been imprisoned a year for his Faith. At the end of this period, an ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople obtained his release on the stipulation that he would never preach about religion. Of course, this did not stop Benjamin. He declared that it was his duty to preach Christ and that he could not be silent. He was again apprehended and sentenced to death in the most terrible agony. St. Benjamin’s feast day is March 31, and he is known as the patron saint of preachers.

Benjamin was the last born of Jacob’s children (Israel's twelve tribes), and the second and last born to Rachel (who died giving birth to him). He is known as a righteous youngster and the one brother who did not plot against Joseph. Benjamin's descendants formed the tribe of Benjamin, the Benjamites, which was the second smallest and the ones who received the smallest of the allotments of the Tribal Lands after entering the Promised Land. It is interesting to note that Saul, the first human king of the Israelites, was a Benjamite. Many years after the northern kingdom was conquered, Judah and Benjamin were conquered by the Babylonians, but they did return after the Babylonians fell to the Persians. It is said that Judah and Benjamin form the Jewish people of today.

Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States. A Republican, he served between 1889 and 1893. He won the presidency through the electoral vote (Grover Cleveland had won the popular vote). Known as the "money president," Harrison is most remembered for enacting the McKinley Tariff which intended to protect the American worker and corporations by levying a high tax on foreign imports. This backfired, as consumer goods skyrocketed when foreign countries refused to export goods to the U.S. and American companies formed monopolies. The voters rebelled, and Harrison was a one-term president. A Civil War veteran himself, Harrison also instituted a Pension for vets that nearly bankrupted the country. Harrison was also the grandson of the 9th U.S. President, William Henry Harrison. While not considered one of the more distinguished Presidents, historians are taking a second look. Particularly at Benjamin Harrison's foreign policies and his fearlessness and activism in international affairs that ultimately would inspire Theodore Roosevelt.