Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 27th column, he looks at the history of the name Meredith.
What new crises will Meredith have this fall?
“Grey’s Anatomy” begins its 18th season Sept. 30. The medical drama, set in a large Seattle hospital, revolves around the professional and personal lives of surgeon Meredith Grey and her colleagues. An immensely talented doctor with a messy emotional life, Meredith almost died from COVID-19 last season. “Anatomy” maintains high ratings; Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith, is one of television’s highest-paid actresses.
Meredith is the modern form of medieval Welsh Maredudd, combining words meaning “great, splendid” and “lord.” Maredudd, son of King Owain of Deheubarth in southwestern Wales, seized the northern kingdom of Gwynedd for his father in 986. When Owain died in 988, Maredudd became king of most of Wales until his death in 999. The name stayed popular in Wales and English counties bordering it for centuries, spawning the surname Meredith.
In 1851, the British census found 264 men with the first name Meredith. The 1850, the United States census found 776, though the total population was about equal. Some American Merediths may have been named after Jonathan Meredith (1772-1805), a Marine killed in the First Barbary War after saving an officer’s life. Four U.S. Navy ships have been named “Meredith” in his honor.
Though more used in America than Britain, Meredith was never common for boys. Its highest rank on Social Security’s yearly lists was 582nd in 1941, while actor Burgess Meredith (1907-1997) was at the top of his Hollywood fame.
Iowa-born Meredith Willson (1902-1984), who wrote hit Broadway musicals “The Music Man” (1957) and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (1960) and the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (1951), is probably the most famous American male Meredith.