Geography (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking for a word name with a subtle virtue vibe?  Here’s an intriguing possibility.

Thanks to Mona for suggesting her daughter’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Meridian.

Meridian is a rarity, but she isn’t unknown.  Seven girls received the name in 2011, and a handful of men and women answered to Meridian long before that.

Alice Walker gave the name to a character in a 1976 novel.  Meridian was the tale of a college student and Civil Rights activist in the 1960s and 70s.  It isn’t exactly a Disney princess choice, but the character is principled and appealing – the kind of literary figure you can imagine might inspire parents.

In simplest terms, the word meridian refers to the great circle we imagine around the Earth, connecting the North and South Poles.  In geography, it is part of the latitude and longitude system.  Zero degrees longitude is the Prime Meridian – which helps determine all sorts of measurements, including date and time.  The International Date Line is at 180° longitude, halfway across the globe from Greenwich Royal Observatory,  home of 0º longitude.

The term is also used in astronomy.  A similar imaginary framework serves to measure and track celestial objects.

Meridian’s roots are Latin.  Meridianus or meridies referred to midday.  It ties back to medius – in the middle and dies – day.  This makes Meridian another day name, a cousin to Tuesday and April.

The term has been used in geography for centuries.  A figurative sense has developed, too.  This is where Meridian joins modern virtue names like Serenity.  Because noon is the height of the day, when  the sun is at its peak, meridian has become associated with summit, culmination, pinnacle – and so as a given name, Meridian is rich with accomplishment.

Incidentally, a similar astronomical term became a baby name in the comic strip Cathy.  Cathy’s BFF Andrea named her firstborn daughter Zenith.

Meridian has been used for a train, a ship, and a plane, as well as a record label and a thoroughbred who won the Kentucky Derby back in 1911.  It’s also a terribly popular place name.  For me, it’s the place in Emmylou Harris’ haunting song “Red Dirt Girl.”

Folk music legend Bob Gibson gave his daughter the name; now she’s a folk performer in her own right, known as Meridian Green.

Meridian feels like she could be a name.  Mer- and Mar- are solidly established for girls.  There’s:

  • Mary, Marie, Mariana, Marilyn and so on.
  • Meredith
  • Marly
  • Marina
  • Mariah
  • Maris
  • Marin, Maren, Merrin, etc.
  • Marlo
  • Meridon, a name used in the Wideacre trilogy by Philippa Gregory

The -ian ending is feminine, too.  Think of Lillian, Vivian, and Jillian.

Could it be masculine?  Maybe.  Rare noun names are tough to peg to a specific gender.

If you’re after a daring modern name, a choice that will stand out, Meridian is an appealing possibility.  She’s a great thought for the middle spot, too, and the kind of noun name that could surprise us by catching on.

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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. Just stumbled across this post today – my baby Meridian is a year old, born about 7 weeks before your post 🙂 I’ll be curious to see the 2012 data about how many girls were named Meridian! So far we love it, even if it is a street name here in Seattle!

  2. Hey that’s my name! 😀
    I like my name. Most girls I see roaming around my high school would think of changing theirs, but I love mine. Due also to the fact I live in a small town, I am the only Meridian I know from around my town. Those who meet me for the first time who don’t know about the prime meridian have to ask for me to repeat my name, especially young children- the name is pretty hard for an adult to pronounce, let alone a child. Besides that, the name Meridian is very unique and I love it. It is one that people tend to remember after a first greeting and one that is not to ever be forgotten. Numerous people have asked how I had acquired my unique, almost unheard name and inquire more about it.

    I love my name because of the fact it is unique and one that can be carried with me to adulthood. It can suit a child up to their adult years and carries a tune that most want to ask about.

  3. A friend named her baby Meridian in March of ’07. She had dreamed she had triplets and named them Light, Elixir and Meridian. She had seen Meridian as a name earlier and decided it stuck.

    Sweetest little girl growing up in a very educated, somewhat mulit-cultural life.

    1. Dream names can be so weird, off the wall, and fun. Light, Elixir, and Meridian makes me smile. In another world…

      1. Yes, my dear, you do know me. 🙂 As we have chatted about this since…
        And now you know what I think of your little love. 🙂