Meritxell

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Catalan
Meaning: “midday.”
(meh-ree-CHEL)

She rhymes a bit with Michelle, but looks unpronounceable to an English speaker. The name is currently popular in Spain, particularly in Barcelona, where the langauge of Catalan is spoken. It is also very prevalent in the country of Andorra, where Catalan is the official language. Meritxell started off as the name of a place, but due to its associations with the Virgin Mary, it became a favorite among Catalan speakers. As for the origins of the name itself, Catalan Philologist, Joan Caromines, claims the name is derived from a diminiutive merig which is ultimately from the Latin meridiem meaning “midday.” Merig is a name used by shephards to denote a pasture with a lot of sun. The legend of Our Lady of Meritxell concerns a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the 12th-century, mass goers in the village of Canillo in Andorra, discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary. It was placed among blooming roses, something which was thought of as miraculous, since it was the dead of winter. You can find more about the story here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Meritxell. A church was built for the statue, and Our Lady of Meritxell is considered the patron saint of the principality of Andorra. In the 1970s, the church and statue were destroyed in a fire, the church was rebuilt and a replica of the statue reproduced. The name day in Spain is September 8, when the statue was destroyed by fire in the 1970s. The name is currently borne by Andorran Minister of Foreign Affairs, Meritxell Mateu i Pi (b. 1966). This site had an audio of the name being spoken by a Catalan speake http://www.forvo.com/search/Meritxell/. In 2003, the name was the 49th most popular female in Spain. In 2006, it did not rank in the top 100 female names of Spain.