Meaning: “son of the south; son of the right hand.”
The name is borne in the Old Testament by the youngest son of Jacob and Rachel. According to Rabbinical scholars, Benjamin was initially named Benoni, an illusion to Rachel dying after childbirth, meaning, “son of my pain.” Jacob had changed his name to Benjamin, a name which is somewhat debated.
According to most sources, Benjamin is composed of the Hebrew elements ben meaning, “son of” and jamin, which can either be interepreted as meaning, “the right side” or “the south” since in ancient Hebrew, there was no grammatical difference between “right” and “south.” This may be in reference to the idea that Benjamin was born in Canaan. However, the meaning of “the right side” can also be in reference to strength and virtue.
In the Samaritan Penteteuch, the name is rendered as Benjamim, which literally means “son of days” which may be a reference to Jacob’s old age when Benjamin was born.
The name was always common among Jews, but did not become common among western Christians until after the Protestant Reformation, among Eastern Orthodox, the name was in usage since the Middle Ages, since it was also borne by an early Eastern Christian martyr.
Currently, Benjamin ranked in as the 25th most popular male name in the United States, in other countries, his rankings are as follows:
- # 10 (Australia, 2008)
- # 62 (Belgium, 2006)
- # 7 (Canada, B.C., 2008)
- # 1 (Chile, 2006)
- # 18 (England/Wales, 2008)
- # 53 (Hungary, 2008)
- # 65 (the Netherlands, 2009)
- # 17 (Norway, 2009)]
- # 60 (Scotland, 2009)
- # 47 (Slovenia, 2005)
- # 36 (Sweden, 2009)
In French, benjamin is also a slang term for a young child, roughly translating to “kid.”
Other forms of the name include:
- Binyamin בִּנְיָמִין بنيامين (Arabic/Hebrew)
- Benxamín (Asturian/Galician)
- Benkamin (Basque)
- Benjamí (Catalan)
- Benghjaminu (Corsican)
- Benjamin Бењамин (Croatian/Danish/Dutch/English/Finnish/French/German/Serbian)
- Benjamín (Czech/Icelandic/Slovak/Spanish)
- Beniamín Βενιαμίν (Greek)
- Peni (Hawaiian)
- Benjámin (Hungarian)
- Beniamino (Italian)
- Bendžamins (Latvian)
- Benjaminas (Lithuanian)
- Beniamin (Polish/Romanian)
- Benjamim (Portuguese)
- Veniamin Вениамин (Russian)
- Bünyamin (Turkish)
Common Dutch, German and English short forms are: Ben, Benny and Benji.
French short forms are Ben and Jamin.
Hungarian diminutives are Benke, Benkő, Benő and Béni.
Obscure but legitimate feminine forms are: Benjamine (French), Benjámina (Hungarian), Beniamina (Italian).
Famous bearers include:
Current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu (b.1949), Jewish Khazar ruler, Benjamin (9th-century C.E.), St. Benjamin of Persia (5th-century C.E.), Pope Benjamin II of Alexandria (1327-1339), Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) and Ben Affleck (b.1972).
Designated name-days are: January 3 (Hungary), March 31 (France/Slovakia), December 20 (Finland) and December 28 (Sweden).