What is the origin of the word "minion"?


Quick Answer

The word "minion," which refers to an unimportant follower of a powerful person (especially one who seeks to please the powerful person rather than reap any personal benefits) came into existence around 1500, having evolved from the Middle French "mignon" (or "mignonne" in the feminine), meaning "darling" or "favorite." "Mignon" itself evolved from the Old French "mignot," meaning "dainty," "gracious" or "affectionate." The origins of the Old French "mignot" are uncertain.

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Full Answer

The Old French word "mignot," which eventually evolved into the modern word "minion," may have Celtic or German origins. "Mignot" may have come from the Old Irish word "min," meaning "tender" or "soft." Alternatively, it may have come from the Old High German word "minnja" (also "minna"), meaning "love" or "memory."

Minions have also become well-known in popular culture as a species of imaginary characters in the 2010 film "Despicable Me" and its sequels and spin-offs. In the original film, the minions are genderless yellow underlings of the villainous Felonius Gru who speak their own fictional language, "Minion-ese." The language is comprised of real words from English, Spanish, French and Italian, among others. Perhaps fittingly (given the word's French origins), the creator of the movie minions is French art director Eric Guillon.

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