Maeander was a river (now the Menderes) and its god who was the father of Samia (who married Ancaeüs). The name means 'seeking a man', from mao, 'to desire', 'seek after' and aner, andros, 'man'. Behind the name lies the following story: Maeander had made a vow that he would sacrifice the first person to congratulate him on his storming of the Phrygian city of Pessinus. This turned out to be his son Archelaüs ('ruler of the people').

Maeander, as he had vowed, killed him but then leapt into the river in remorse. The 'sought man' thus was his own son. A very similar story is told in the Bible, where in Judges 11 Jephthah 'vowed a vow' that he would give Jehovah his daughter as a burnt offering if he was successful in war.

He was, and after a two-month period during which his daughter 'bewailed her virginity upon the mountains', he did with her according to his vow which he had vowed'. The river name, ancient and modern, gives the English word 'meander': the Maeander had a tortuous course.