minion (n.) Look up minion at
c. 1500, "a favorite; a darling; a low dependent; one who pleases rather than benefits" [Johnson], from Middle French mignon "a favorite, darling" (n.), also a term of (probably homosexual) abuse; as an adjective, "dainty, pleasing, favorite," from Old French mignot "pretty, attractive, dainty, gracious, affectionate." The French word is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Celtic (compare Old Irish min "tender, soft"), or from Old High German minnja, minna "love, memory" (see minnesinger). Used 16c.-17c. without disparaging overtones.
miniscule Look up miniscule at
common misspelling of minuscule.
miniskirt (n.) Look up miniskirt at
also mini-skirt, 1965, from mini- + skirt (n.); reputedly the invention of French fashion designer André Courrèges (b.1923).
"The miniskirt enables young ladies to run faster, and because of it, they may have to." [John V. Lindsay, "New York Times," Jan. 13, 1967]
Related: Miniskirted.
minister (v.) Look up minister at
early 14c., "to perform religious rites, provide religious services;" mid-14c., "to serve (food or drink);" late 14c. "render service or aid," from Old French menistrer "to serve, be of service, administer, attend, wait on," and directly from Latin ministrare "to serve, attend, wait upon," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)). Related: Ministered; ministering.
minister (n.) Look up minister at
c. 1300, "one who acts upon the authority of another," from Old French menistre "servant, valet, member of a household staff, administrator, musician, minstrel" (12c.), from Latin minister (genitive ministri) "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (in Medieval Latin, "priest"), from minus, minor "less," hence "subordinate" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small") + comparative suffix *-teros. Formed on model of magister. Meaning "priest" is attested in English from early 14c. Political sense of "high officer of the state" is attested from 1620s, from notion of "service to the crown."
ministerial (adj.) Look up ministerial at
1560s, of religion; 1650s, of state; in some uses from Middle French ministériel and directly from Medieval Latin ministerialis "pertaining to service, of a minister," from Latin ministerium (see ministry); in some cases probably directly from minister or ministry.
ministerium (n.) Look up ministerium at
"ordained ministers of a church district," 1881, from Latin ministerium (see ministry).
ministration (n.) Look up ministration at
mid-14c., "the action of ministering or serving," from Old French ministration or directly from Latin ministrationem (nominative ministratio), noun of action from past participle stem of ministrare "to serve, attend, wait upon," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)).
ministry (n.) Look up ministry at
late 14c., "function of a priest," from Old French menistere "service, ministry; position, post, employment," and directly from Latin ministerium "office, service, attendance, ministry," from minister "inferior, servant, priest's assistant" (see minister (n.)). Began to be used 1916 as name of certain departments in British government.
miniver (n.) Look up miniver at
fur lining and trimming in a garment, c. 1300, from Old French menu vair "minor fur;" see menu + vair.
mink (n.) Look up mink at
early 15c., "skin or fur of the mink," from a Scandinavian source (compare Swedish menk "a stinking animal in Finland"). Applied in English to the animal itself from 1620s.
minke (n.) Look up minke at
type of small whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), 1939, supposedly from the Norwegian surname Meincke.
The name minke is said to have derived from one of Svend Foyn's crew by the name of Meincke, who mistook a school of these whales for blue whales. Whalers all over the world considered this incident so amusing that they used his name as a household word to describe this species. [J.N. Tønnessen & A.O. Johnsen, "The History of Modern Whaling" (transl. R.I. Christophersen), 1982]
Also known in English as the lesser rorqual and little piked whale.
minnesinger (n.) Look up minnesinger at
one of a class of medieval German poets who imitated the troubadours, 1825, from German minnesinger, from minne "love," especially "sexual love" (from Old High German minna "loving memory," originally "memory," from Proto-Germanic *minthjo, from PIE *menti-, suffixed form of root *men- (1) "to think") + singer (see singer). German minne by c. 1500 no longer was considered decent, and it became a taboo word until revived 18c. in poetic language.
Minnesota Look up Minnesota at
originally the name of the river, from Dakota (Siouan) mnisota, literally "cloudy water, milky water," from mni "river, stream" + sota "slightly clouded." As the name of a U.S. territory from 1849 (admitted as a state 1858). Related: Minnesotan.
minnow (n.) Look up minnow at
small freshwater fish, early 15c., probably related to Old English myne, earlier *mynwe, a name for some kind of fish, from Proto-Germanic *muniwon (source also of Middle Low German möne, Dutch meun, Old High German muniwa, German Münne), of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE *men- "small." Perhaps influenced in Middle English by French menu "small."
Minoan (adj.) Look up Minoan at
1894, from Minos, famous king of Crete; applied by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans to the civilization that flourished there c. 3000-1400 B.C.E.
minor (n.) Look up minor at
early 14c., "a Franciscan," from Latin Fratres Minores "lesser brethren," name chosen by St. Francis, who founded the order, for the sake of humility; see minor (adj.). From c. 1400 as "minor premise of a syllogism." From 1610s as "person under legal age" (Latin used minores (plural) for "the young"). Musical sense is from 1797. Meaning "secondary subject of study, subject of study with fewer credits than a major" is from 1890; as a verb in this sense from 1934.
minor (adj.) Look up minor at
early 13c., menour "Franciscan" (see minor (n.)), from Latin minor "less, lesser, smaller, junior," figuratively "inferior, less important," formed as a masculine/feminine form of minus on the mistaken assumption that minus was a neuter comparative, from PIE root *mei- (2) "small."

Some English usages are via Old French menor "less, smaller, lower; underage, younger," from Latin minor. Meaning "underage" is from 1570s. Meaning "lesser" in English is from early 15c.; that of "less important" is from 1620s. The musical sense is from 1690s. In the baseball sense, minor league is from 1884; the figurative extension is first recorded 1926.
minority (n.) Look up minority at
1530s, "condition of being smaller," from Middle French minorité (15c.), or directly from Medieval Latin minoritatem (nominative minoritas), from Latin minor (see minor (adj.)). Meaning "state of being under legal age" is from 1540s; that of "smaller number or part" is from 1736. The meaning "group of people separated from the rest of a community by race, religion, language, etc." is from 1919, originally in an Eastern European context.
Minotaur (n.) Look up Minotaur at
late 14c., from Greek minotauros, from Minos, king of Crete + tauros "bull" (see Taurus). A flesh-eating monster, half man half bull, son of Pasiphae (wife of Minos) by a bull.
minster (n.) Look up minster at
Old English mynster "the church of a monastery" (8c.), from Late Latin monasterium (see monastery). Compare Old French moustier, French moûtier, Old Irish manister.
minstrel (n.) Look up minstrel at
early 13c., from Old French menestrel "entertainer, poet, musician; servant, workman; good-for-nothing, rogue," from Medieval Latin ministralis "servant, jester, singer," from Late Latin ministerialem (nominative ministerialis) "imperial household officer, one having an official duty," from ministerialis (adj.) "ministerial," from Latin ministerium (see ministry). The connecting notion is via the jester, etc., as a court position.

Specific sense of "musician" developed in Old French, but in English until 16c. the word was used of anyone (singers, storytellers, jugglers, buffoons) whose profession was to entertain patrons. Only in 18c. was the word limited, in a historical sense, to "medieval singer of heroic or lyric poetry who accompanied himself on a stringed instrument." Reference to blackface music acts in U.S. is from 1843.
minstrelsy (n.) Look up minstrelsy at
c. 1300, menstracie, "music as produced on an instrument; action of making music for entertainment; musicians or entertainers generally," from Anglo-French menestralsie, from Old French menestrel (see minstrel).
mint (v.) Look up mint at
"to stamp metal to make coins," 1540s, from mint (n.2). Related: Minted; minting. Minter "one who stamps coins to create money" is from early 12c.
mint (adj.) Look up mint at
"perfect" (like a freshly minted coin), 1887 (in mint condition), from mint (n.2).
mint (n.1) Look up mint at
aromatic herb, Old English minte (8c.), from West Germanic *minta (source also of Old Saxon minta, Middle Dutch mente, Old High German minza, German Minze), a borrowing from Latin menta, mentha "mint," from Greek minthe, personified as a nymph transformed into an herb by Proserpine, probably a loan-word from a lost Mediterranean language.
mint (n.2) Look up mint at
place where money is coined, early 15c., from Old English mynet "coin, coinage, money" (8c.), from West Germanic *munita (source also of Old Saxon munita, Old Frisian menote, Middle Dutch munte, Old High German munizza, German münze), from Latin moneta "mint" (see money). Earlier word for "place where money is coined" was minter (early 12c.). General sense of "a vast sum of money" is from 1650s.
minty (adj.) Look up minty at
1867, from mint (n.1) + -y (2). Related: Mintiness.
minuend (n.) Look up minuend at
"number from which another number is to be subtracted," 1706, from Latin minuendus (numerus), gerundive past participle of minuere "to reduce, diminish, make small" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small").
minuet (n.) Look up minuet at
"slow dance in triple measure," 1670s, from French menuet, from Old French menuet (adj.) "small, fine, delicate, narrow," from menu "small," from Latin minutus "small, minute" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). So called from the short steps taken in the dance. Spelling influenced in English by Italian minuetto.
minus (n.) Look up minus at
1650s, from minus (prep.).
minus (prep.) Look up minus at
late 15c., "with subtraction of," from Latin minus "less," neuter of minor "smaller," from PIE *mi-nu-, suffixed form of root root *mei- (2) "small."

Mathematical use in expressions of calculation did not exist in the word in classical Latin and is probably from North Sea medieval commercial usage of Latin plus and minus to indicate surplus or deficiency of weight or measure. Origin of the "minus sign" is disputed.
minuscule (n.) Look up minuscule at
1705, "small (not capital) letter;" as an adjective, "small," from 1727 (in printing; general sense of "extremely small" by 1893), from French minuscule (17c.), from Latin minuscula, in minuscula littera "slightly smaller letter," fem. of minusculus "rather less, rather small," diminutive of minus "less" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). Related: Minuscular.
minute (n.) Look up minute at
"sixtieth part of an hour or degree," late 14c., from Old French minut (13c.) or directly from Medieval Latin minuta "minute, short note," from Latin minuta, noun use of fem. of minutus "little, small, minute," past participle of minuere "to lessen, diminish" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small").

In Medieval Latin, pars minuta prima "first small part" was used by mathematician Ptolemy for one-sixtieth of a circle, later of an hour (next in order was secunda minuta, which became second (n.)). German Minute, Dutch minuut also are from French. Used vaguely for "short time" from late 14c. As a measure expressing distance (travel time) by 1886. Minute hand is attested from 1726.
minute (adj.) Look up minute at
early 15c., "chopped small," from Latin minutus "little, small, minute," past participle of minuere "to lessen, diminish" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). Meaning "very small in size or degree" is attested from 1620s. Related: Minutely; minuteness.
minuteman (n.) Look up minuteman at
U.S. history, one of a class of militia available for immediate service (i.e. "ready in a matter of minutes"), 1774. As the name of a type of ICBM, from 1961, so called because they could be launched with very little preparation.
minutes (n.) Look up minutes at
"record of proceedings," c. 1710, perhaps from Latin minuta scriptura "rough notes," literally "small writing;" see minute (adj.). Minute "rough draft" is attested from c. 1500.
minutia (n.) Look up minutia at
1751, plural minutiae, from Latin minutia "smallness" (plural minutiae, in Late Latin "trifles"), from minutus "small" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small").
minutiae (n.) Look up minutiae at
1751, plural of Latin minutia "smallness" (see minutia); hence, in plural, "trifles."
minx (n.) Look up minx at
1540s, mynx "pet dog," later "a young, pert, wanton girl" [Johnson] (1590s), of uncertain origin, perhaps a shortening of minikin "girl, woman," from Middle Dutch minnekijn "darling, beloved," from minne "love" (see minnesinger) + -kijn, diminutive suffix. Klein's sources suggest the word is from Low German minsk "a man," also "an impudent woman," related to German Mensch (see mensch), which also has a sense in vulgar use of "wench, hussy, slut."
Miocene (adj.) Look up Miocene at
"pertaining to the geological period between the Oligocene and Pliocene," 1831, irregular formation from Greek meion "less" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small") + -cene.
A typical example of the monstrosities with which scientific men in want of a label for something, and indifferent to all beyond their own province, defile the language. The elements of the word are Greek, but not the way they are put together, nor the meaning demanded of the compound. [Fowler]
miosis (n.) Look up miosis at
1819, from Greek myein "to shut (the eyes)" + -osis. Greek myein is perhaps originally "to close the lips," from PIE *meue- "to be silent" (see mute (adj.)). Related: Miotic.
Mir Look up Mir at
late 20c. space station, from Russian, literally "peace, world," also "village, community," from Old Church Slavonic miru "peace," from Proto-Slavic *miru "commune, joy, peace" ("possibly borrowed from Iranian" [Watkins]), from PIE root *mei- (4) "to bind, tie" (see mitre). Old Church Slavonic miru was "used in Christian terminology as a collective 'community of peace' " [Buck], translating Greek kosmos. Hence, "the known world, mankind."
mirabile dictu (interj.) Look up mirabile dictu at
1831, Latin, literally "wonderful to relate," from neuter of mirabilis "wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary; strange, singular" (see marvel (n.)) + ablative supine of dicere "to say, speak" (from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly"). Found in Virgil.
miracle (n.) Look up miracle at
mid-12c., "a wondrous work of God," from Old French miracle (11c.) "miracle, story of a miracle, miracle play," from Latin miraculum "object of wonder" (in Church Latin, "marvelous event caused by God"), from mirari "to wonder at, marvel, be astonished," figuratively "to regard, esteem," from mirus "wonderful, astonishing, amazing," earlier *smeiros, from PIE *smei- "to smile, laugh" (source also of Sanskrit smerah "smiling," Greek meidan "to smile," Old Church Slavonic smejo "to laugh;" see smile (v.)).

From mid-13c. as "extraordinary or remarkable feat," without regard to deity. Replaced Old English wundortacen, wundorweorc. The Greek words rendered as miracle in the English bibles were semeion "sign," teras "wonder," and dynamis "power," in Vulgate translated respectively as signum, prodigium, and virtus. The Latin word is the source of Spanish milagro, Italian miracolo.
miraculous (adj.) Look up miraculous at
mid-15c., from Middle French miraculeux, from Medieval Latin miraculosus, from Latin miraculum "miracle, marvel, wonder" (see miracle). Related: Miraculously (early 15c.); miraculousness.
mirage (n.) Look up mirage at
"optical illusion of water in sandy deserts," 1812, from French mirage (1753), from se mirer "to be reflected," from Latin mirare (see mirror (n.)). Or the French word is from Latin mirus "wonderful" (see miracle). Similarity to Arabic mi'raj has been noted, but the usual sense of that word is "ladder, stairs; climb, ascent," and the resemblance appears to be coincidental. The standard Arabic for "a desert mirage" is sarāb.
Miranda (1) Look up Miranda at
fem. proper name, fem. of Latin mirandus "worthy to be admired," gerundive of mirari "to admire" (see miracle).
Miranda (2) Look up Miranda at
criminal suspects' arrest rights in U.S., 1967, in reference to Fifth Amendment cases ruled on by U.S. Supreme Court June 13, 1966, under heading Ernesto A. Miranda v. the State of Arizona.
mire (v.) Look up mire at
c. 1400, in figurative sense of "to involve in difficulties," from mire (n.). Literal sense is from 1550s. Related: Mired; miring.