Most of the world’s well-known wine varietals derive their name from the location where they were discovered or made famous. Not Merlot.
The name traces its meaning to a word of the dialect of Occitan called Gascon. This relatively obscure Romance language is closely related to Catalan and still spoken in a few regions of France. The Gascon word merlau refers to a ‘little blackbird.’ Whether this refers to the color of the Merlot grape or its popularity while on the vine with small birds is an open question. Be sure to bring that up the next time your sharing a bottle with friends.