Georgia Appalachian Trail Club Marker on Sprin...
Georgia Appalachian Trail Club Marker; Image via Wikipedia

There’s the evergreen Benjamin, Teen Mom‘s luxury brand babe Bentley, and the literary Bennett.  Why not this one?

Thanks to Jillian for pointing out not only the name, but his connection to the Appalachian Trail, too!  Our Baby Name of the Day is Benton.

Benton is another one borrowed from the map, this time referring to a settlement “near bent grass.”  Beonet was the Old English word for bent grass.  It’s the source of Bentley, too.  They’re pretty common throughout the English-speaking world, with at least a dozen US states boasting a Benton.

What might surprise you is that Benton charted in the US Top 1000 most years from 1880 through 1968.  He was always above 500, and often just hanging on to the fringes.  But that’s more history than Bentley, and almost as much as Bennett.

One of the nineteenth century Bentons was conservationist Benton MacKaye.  He went from Harvard to the U.S. Forest Service, with stops at other federal agencies.  MacKaye was one of the first to advocate for preservation of green space.  If you’ve ever enjoyed a public park or nature trail, thank Benton MacKaye.  Along with a group of like-minded thinkers, he co-founded The Wilderness Society in 1935.  The Society helped establish the National Wilderness Preservation System, as well as many other federal laws aimed at preserving and protecting the natural environment.

If you have a few months to spare, you can experience MacKaye’s major achievement on foot.  He originated the idea for the 2,000-mile-plus Appalachian Trail, stretching from Maine to Georgia, as a respite for urban dwellers.  His initial proposal was published in 1921; just two years later, you could hike on the very first part.  Additions happened gradually.  Today, once you’ve made it to Georgia, you can head for Tennessee on the Benton MacKaye Trail.  Or, from Maine, you can head into Quebec on the International Appalachian Trail extension.

This puts Benton on par with Ansel or Carson – names with a subtle tie to the great outdoors.

Tack on a -ville and instead of “commitment to the natural world,” you get the world famous headquarters of Sam Walton’s empire.  Walton put Bentonville, Arkansas on the map, and a hint of roll back prices attaches to Benton.  Bentonville and Benton County take their name not from the naturalist, but from Thomas Hart Benton, a five-time US Senator known for pushing westward expansion.

Other possible associations include:

  • Sergeant Benton was a British intelligence officer and companion of Doctor Who in the late 1960s and early 1970s;
  • Canada’s Due South aired from 1994 through 1999, featuring the crime-fighting Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable Benton Fraser who, in a series of twists, ends up working with the police in Chicago;
  • Most recently, Eriq La Salle played surgeon Peter Benton on ER for eight seasons.

Benton fits with current trends, but feels like a name that would outlast any fad.  There’s something homespun and sensible about Benton.  If you’re the outdoorsy type, but think naming a son River is too much, Benton offers another option.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Benton looks like Bennet/ts evil stepbrother.

    Do not want.

    Locklyn? I have the words but they’re not appropriate for this blog.

  2. I prefer the literary Bennet – why didn’t Jane Austen spell that with two T’s? – to Benton, myself. It’s a little too United Colors of Benetton for me.

    And, I only like Maci’s Bentley because her accent is perfect when she says it – a bit of [BINT-lee] in there, right? – but the car thing is a little weird, yes.

    PS Julie, Locklyn Kyla? I know Kyla is his wife, but Locklyn? That adds a whole new dimension of crazy to the -lyn phenomenon. Yikes!

    PPS My name crushes of the week are Liv, Tess, and Reid. I don’t think Reid’s been done here yet!

  3. This is another name I assumed must be in the top 1000. I prefer Bennett, because Benton is too close to my brother’s name, but it’s a very nice name. It’s familiar, easy to pronounce and spell, all pluses in my book.

    Completely off topic, but did you see that Vince Vaughn and his wife named their DAUGHTER Locklyn Kyla.

  4. The name has much more history than I anticipated (as a given name, at least), but I can’t help but think of bento boxes: Japanese boxed meals. For that rather unfortunate reason, this name is out for me.