I used to think Benedict was one of those names that was too stained by history for modern usage as a baby name. Growing up in a household with a parent enamored by Early America, and with my own interests in colonial history, Benedict Arnold’s treason always felt like the reason why nobody named their sons Benedict anymore. Why I didn’t consider Benedict‘s decades in the U.S. top 1000 or the more enduring popularity of Arnold never occurred to me. Maybe it’s because my generation grew up watching Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and Hey Arnold, so our positive associations overrode the general’s surname. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked Benedict as a baby name! The fact is, until I was older I simply didn’t know of any living person who bore the name.
Nowadays, Benedict is a semi-popular top 1000 baby name in the United States! A few things have happened in the last 20 years to revive Benedict from the tomes of history and become a suitable modern baby name:
- The first time I think I heard the name outside of 18th-century history was the 2005 election of Pope Benedict XVI. When he became Pope, the name Benedict received a substantial boost. With his recent death on December 31st, 2022, expect to see another bump to the name in the 2023 data (though, it will be interesting to see if his nearly unprecedented abdication dampens some of the effects here since the papal transition already happened).
- Sherlock arrived on TV in 2010, quickly obsessing Americans. With that, Benedict Cumberbatch became a ubiquitous household name and at that point, I think the name began making its way out of purely religious circles. If anyone’s had a heavy hand in fading negative historical associations for Americans, he has. It helps too that Cumberbatch starred in a major Marvel role as Dr. Strange.
- Cumberbatch isn’t even the only Benedict in Dr. Strange! Benedict Wong played another major role as Wong. What are the chances of two major acting credits in the same movie going to men both named Benedict? Either way, both actors have appeared across numerous Marvel productions.
- One word: Bridgerton. The romance series first arrived over 20 years ago in novel form, but the Netflix series has been a massive phenomenon since its introduction late in 2020. Benedict is the name of the second child and son, and there’s a good chance that the characterization helped push the name back into the Top 1000 for 2021.
Besides all the current religious and pop culture associations, Benedict fits a few popular name aesthetics. It’s long, elegant, and Latin, landing squarely into the maximalist style of distinguished baby names. Benedict is old-fashioned, giving it a boost for parents who love vintage names. Bridgerton grants Benedict Regency vibes. Anglophile parents also may love its British-sounding appeal. It’s not super popular but with a rank of #991, it’s firmly familiar to American parents. If you want to honor a Benjamin but prefer something more unusual, Benedict has you covered. And if you go by meanings, its definition (“blessed”) makes it an honorific option for the Hebrew name Baruch too. Overall, I think Benedict finds itself in a perfect storm for creating a popular baby name.
What do you think of Benedict?
3 thoughts on “Name Profile: Benedict”
The youngest Bene[dict] I know is nearly 10 years old now.
[and there were probably lots of kids and young adults who were named after the Emeritus – or after the breakfast egg recipe].
A literary Benedict I remember is from a Gillian Cross book – he was very good at quizzes and intellectual challenges.
[I am a “meanings” person when it comes to onomastics and I have named some of my Sim characters “Baruch” or “Barus”].
And the whole Benedict/Bennett/Burnett connection.
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I have a 2021 Benedict! I always liked the sound of it but it definitely felt too weird to me for a long time. I agree that Benedict XVI and Benedict Cumberbatch have gone a long way toward changing the American image of the name.
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I love that you have a little Benedict! Thanks for sharing.