Melkite, from the Syriac word malkā for "King" and the Arabic word Malakī (Arabic: ملكي, meaning "royal", and by extension, "imperial"), was originally a pejorative term for Middle Eastern Christians who accepted the authority of the Council of Chalcedon (451) and the Byzantine Emperor, a term applied to them by non-Chalcedonians. Of the Chalcedonian churches, Greek Catholics continue to use the term, while Eastern Orthodox do not.
The Greek element signifies the Byzantine Rite heritage of the church, the liturgy used by all the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
The term Catholic acknowledges communion with the Church of Rome and implies participation in the universal Christian church. According to Church tradition, the Melkite Church of Antioch is the "oldest continuous Christian community in the world".
In Arabic, the official language of the church, it is called ar-Rūm al-Kathūlīk (Arabic: الروم الكاثوليك). The Arabic word "Rūm" means Roman, from the Greek word "Romaioi" by which the Greek-speaking Eastern (called "Byzantine" in modern parlance) Romans had continued to identify themselves even when the Roman empire had ceased to exist elsewhere. The name literally means "Roman Catholic", confusingly for the modern English-speaker, but this does not refer to the Latin-speaking Western Catholic Church of Rome but rather to the Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox "Byzantine" Roman heritage, the centre of gravity of which was the city of "New Rome" (Latin: Nova Roma, Greek: Νέα Ρώμη), i.e. Constantinople.