French Word of the Day: Benjamin

French Word of the Day: Benjamin
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If your name is Benjamin be prepared for some confusion over whether you are also 'a benjamin'.

Why do I need to know the word Benjamin? 

Because not all Benjamins are are actually Benjamins. It is best to avoid any Benjamin-related confusion. 

What does it mean? 

Benjamin (pronounced ‘bon-ja-man’) is a word used to designate the youngest person in a group, or the youngest member of a set of siblings. 

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French people started using the word for this purpose in the 18th century but its origins go back further than that. 

In the Bible, the Book of Genesis tells us that Benjamin is the youngest son of Jacob – a man who had 13 children by four different wives. This is where the French inspiration for Benjamin comes from. 

This is used for women and girls as well – if the youngest person in the group is a female, you can use Benjamine instead. 

Use it like this:

Le nouveau benjamin de l’Assemblée Nationale ne s’attendait pas à être élu – The new youngest member of the National Assembly did not expect to be elected. 

Sandrine est notre benjamine – Sandrine is our youngest child

Je ne suis pas le benjamin – I am not the youngest one 


There are several nouns you can use to describe someone as a youngster: 

Le petiot / la petiote

Le gamin / la gamine

Le bambin / la bambine 

Le marmot (mostly applies to boys)

Le mioche 

READ ALSO English boys’ names that mean something very different in French 

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