What Does “Meursault” Mean?

Albert Camus’ The Stranger was originally published in French, and later was translated into English. Because of this, we can assume that the narrator’s name, “Meursault,” also originated from the French language.

Camus does not seem like the type of person who would choose a name for his narrator at random, specifically because of the depth of the novel. He seems extremely thoughtful, and specific with his word choice.

So what could the name “Meursault” mean?

When “Meursault” is searched on the internet, the first thing that appears is the wine, and the region in which said wine came from. Though it is possible that Camus simply chose the name “Meursault” because he liked the wine, I would like to explore other possible origins.

The most obvious French word that could be found within “Meursault” is the word “meurt,” which means “dies.” This seems the most probable translation of the first part of the name, as death is a major aspect of The Stranger–Meursault doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, kills a man, and is later sentenced to be executed.

The hardest translation of “Meursault” is the ending part, “(s)ault.” The “s” may be included in the translation, or could be a filler letter. One possibility is that Camus meant to include the french word “sauf,” which means “except,” or “safe.” However, this translation isn’t extremely connected to the story, and is therefore improbable. Another word could be “sauter,” which means “to jump,” or “saule,” which means “willow tree.” Neither of these seem very probable, either. 

Two other possible words that are less explicit within the latter half of “Meursault” are “soleil” and “autre.” “Soleil” translates to mean “sun.” Heat and the sun are constant burdens upon Meursault, so this is a possibility. The other, more intriguing, option is “autre,” which means “other.” This translation, I feel, is the most likely. Meursault is an other in society. He goes against everything that is “normal,” or expected.

So, within the name “Meursault,” we could find prominent aspects of The Stranger: death, and being an anomaly within society.

2 thoughts on “What Does “Meursault” Mean?

  1. Estefania L.

    Before reading this, I had never really thought about Meursault’s name. But after reading your translations, it definitely makes sense why that would be his name and that it was probably strategically chosen.

    Like

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