From an Old French form of Latin Melania, a derivative of the feminine form, melaina, of the Greek adjective melas ‘black, dark’. This was the name of two Roman saints of the 5th century, a grandmother and granddaughter. St Melania the Younger was a member of a rich patrician family. She led an austere and devout Christian life and, on inheriting her father's wealth, she emancipated her slaves, sold her property, and gave the proceeds to the poor. She also established several contemplative houses, including one on the Mount of Olives, to which she eventually retired. The name Melanie was introduced to England from France in the Middle Ages, but died out again. It was reintroduced and became popular in the late 20th century.