If you live in Massachusetts, you’re bound to meet a lot of Benjamins.
From 2010 through 2018, Benjamin was far and away the most popular name for baby boys born in Massachusetts, with 4,169 babies in total being granted the moniker, according to a Globe analysis of Social Security Administration data.
But in an odd twist, the name’s popularity seems singular to Massachusetts. While Benjamin has owned the top spot on the state’s baby name list for six years running — since 2012, up from 2nd place in 2011 and 2010 — the name barely even cracks each annual Top 5 nationwide baby name list. In fact, in 2010, Benjamin didn’t even make the top 20 national list; it has gradually moved up the list starting at No. 19 in 2011, and currently sits at No. 6 countrywide.
From 2010 to 2018 nationwide, Benjamin was only the 12th most popular boys name, compared to 1st in Massachusetts.
In the state, the second most popular name of the decade so far is William, which was bestowed on 3,802 boys total starting in 2010, according to the Social Security data. And while there were 367 more Benjamins than Williams in that period, the disparity between the state’s most popular girls’ names is much smaller. There were 3,868 Emmas born here between 2010 and 2018, and 3,865 Olivias — a difference of only three. (Not to mention both girls’ names were popular nationally this decade, too: Emma claimed the top spot, and Olivia came in third.)
So, did local moms of Benjamins know that their bouncing baby boys’ name would be so ubiquitous around these parts?
“I had no idea,” said Laura Chadwell, a 34-year-old Topsfield woman who works in fundraising.
Chadwell, whose son was born in 2016, said she and her husband scoured national baby name lists specifically to ensure they stayed away from uber-popular names.
“We were looking for names that had a sort of New England or English bent, since my husband and I are both English,” she said. “We chose Benjamin because it’s historic, it seems New Englandy, and I remember thinking about Benjamin Franklin.”
Plus, Chadwell said, the name lends itself to several variations of nicknames — Benny, Ben, Benji, for instance.
“We actually found out after we named Ben, my brother and sister-in-law, who have two girls, said, ‘That was our name!’” she said. “We didn’t know it because they only had girls, but that was the name they were waiting for if they had a boy."
Brielle Grassey, a 31-year-old Holden resident whose son Benjamin turns 6 months old on Christmas, said she and her husband landed on the name because it was the only one they could agree on.
“Interestingly, one of the reasons we picked it is we thought it wasn’t popular,” she said. “We took it for, at least in my mind, for the uniqueness of it. But then he started daycare two months ago and there are two other Benjamins.”
As for why she thinks the name is so popular here, Grassey said she can’t put her finger on it, but to her, the name just smacks of New England.
“I wouldn’t feel like I would run into a Benjamin in California,” she said.
Emily Auger doesn’t exactly live in Massachusetts, but the 32-year-old has strong New England ties: Her son Benjamin was born 13 months ago in Providence, R.I., and she now lives in the southern New Hampshire town of Bedford. (Her brother also happens to work here at the Globe.)
She was audibly surprised to find out her son’s name was the most popular of the decade in Massachusetts.
“It’s sort of an old-fashioned name, but it doesn’t sound out-of-the-time, and it has a lot of nicknames,” she said, explaining why she liked it.
Auger said that they found out their child’s gender when he was born. She and her husband had a list of 10 boys’ names and 10 girls’ names; but when they saw their son, they threw the list — which lacked “Benjamin” — out the window.
“He looked like my father, and my dad is Jewish, so we wanted to name him from the Hebrew Bible,” she said. “Then my brother-in-law in Pittsburgh, Benjamin, texted us to say congratulations on the baby. So I said, ‘Oh. Ben.’ And my husband said, ‘I like it.’” (Since naming newborns after living relatives is a no-no in the Jewish faith, Auger assured us that she checked with the elder Benjamin first to make sure he was OK with it.)
When asked why she thought the name was so heavily used here, Auger thought for a moment.
“I know it is disproportionately popular among Jewish people,” she said. “I don’t know if that has something to do with it. In the Northeast, Jewish culture is a little more part of our culture in general. . . That’s a big part of it for me.”
Plus, her son shares a nickname with Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who helped Boston win the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers just before Benjamin was born.
“We call him Benny,” she said. “It has a bit of a Red Sox nod.”
Of course, in addition to Benjamin Franklin, the star power behind Ben Affleck’s name might have swayed some new parents.
And then there’s the case of Patriots star Tom Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, who could have something to do with the local trend. The pair named their son Benjamin in 2010 — a compromise since, according to a Vogue interview, Bundchen originally wanted to name him “River.”
“I wanted him to be called River because I wanted something always flowing, immortal," Bundchen said. “My husband said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to call him River.’”
And does it seem curious to anyone else that Bill is the nickname for William, the second most popular name here?
Hmm. . .
Most popular names in Massachusetts, from 2010 through 2018:
1. Benjamin (4,169)
2. William (3,802)
3. Jacob (3,293)
4. Noah (3,245)
5. Michael (3,187)
6. Liam (3,149)
7. James (3,092)
8. Ryan (3,066)
9. Lucas (3,033)
10. Mason (2,987)
1. Emma (3,868)
2. Olivia (3,865)
3. Sophia (3,724)
4. Isabella (3,393)
5. Ava (2,948)
6. Charlotte (2,729)
7. Emily (2,487)
8. Abigail (2,462)
9. Mia (2,338)
10. Grace (2,097)
Most popular names nationwide, from 2010 through 2018:
1. Noah (163,657)
2. Liam (152,994)
3. Jacob (152,020)
4. Mason (146,079)
5. William (145,893)
6. Ethan (137,512)
7. Michael (134,043)
8. Alexander (130,477)
9. James (126,060)
10. Elijah (123,151)
1. Emma (177,410)
2. Sophia (166,986)
3. Olivia (165,581)
4. Isabella (156,709)
5. Ava (140,979)
6. Mia (116,301)
7. Abigail (109,253)
8. Emily (109,149)
9. Madison (91,914)
10. Charlotte (89,043)