About Names: Despite ties to traitor, Benedict has enjoyed a long, blessed history

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 19th column, he looks at the history of the name Benedict.

Benedict is from Late Latin Benedictus, “blessed,” used as a name by early Christians. It became famous through St. Benedict of Nursia (480-550). As a young man, Benedict became a pious hermit near Subiaco, Italy. He attracted followers, becoming so admired that a jealous priest tried to kill him. A raven snatched poisoned bread out of his hands.

Sixteen Popes have been named Benedict, the first reigning from 575-579. The name became popular in medieval England, though in everyday use it was usually pronounced “Bennett.” That’s why Bennett is a common surname, ranking 86th in the 2010 United States census.

Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), the American revolutionary general who plotted to turn West Point over to the British, made “a Benedict Arnold” a synonym for “traitor” to Americans. It might then seem surprising that Benedict was actually 10 times more common in America during the 19th century. Only 94 Benedicts are listed in Britain’s 1851 census, while 1,068 are found in the 1850 United States census, when the total populations were equal.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Benedicts in history!