Meleager was a prince of Calydon, the son of Oeneus and Althaea (or Ares and Althaea). The popular (and obvious) interpretation of his name is 'guinea-fowl', from meleagroi, 'guinea-hens', into which birds his sisters were turned after mourning him at his funeral. (There seems little doubt that, as with so many names, this incident was invented to account for his name which resembled that of the bird.)

However, it was Meleager who killed the famous Calydonian Boar, and his name can therefore also be understood as 'one who intends to hunt', from mello, 'to intend', 'design' and agra, 'catching', 'hunting'. There is even a third possibility for his name, with Meleager being a 'land-lover', from melo, 'to care for', 'tend' and agros, 'field', 'land'.