Menelaüs was the younger son of Atreus, king of Mycenae, and Aërope, and, even more importantly, the husband of Helen (of Troy), with whom he is always associated in cult and literature. He was one of the leaders of the Trojan War, and his name is thus usually interpreted as 'withstanding men', from meno, 'to remain', 'stand' and laos, 'people'.

Looked at rather differently, however, his name could derive from menos, 'force', 'strength' and laos, so that he is 'might of the people'. Yet again, another sense of meno is 'to await', 'expect', so that he could be 'he who awaits the people'.

In this latter case, the 'wait' could refer to the famous 'long stay' of the army before Troy, and in this interpretation - as well as the others - his name suitably matches that of his elder brother Agamemnon. Helen bore Menelaüs a daughter, Hermione.