Melicertes was the son of Athamas and Ino, and judging by his name seems to have been a bee-keeper since he is literally a 'honey-cutter', from meli, 'honey' and ceiro, 'to cut'. Alternatively, he could be a preparer of mead, if we take his name as meaning 'honey power', from meli and cratos, 'strength', 'might'.

It has often been suggested, however, that his name is actually a Greek form of Melkarth or Melquart, the Canaanite equivalent of Heracles and the city god of Tyre (whose own name is said to mean 'lord of the city'). Like his mother, Melicertes became a sea deity, and as Ino was renamed Leucothea, so he became Palaemon.