[14] Latin minūtus ‘small’ was a derivative of the verb minuere ‘lessen’ (source of English diminish), which itself was based on the element min- ‘small’. In medieval Latin the term 335 mistletoe pars minuta prima ‘first small part’ was applied to a ‘sixtieth part of a whole’ – originally of a circle, later of an hour (likewise a second was originally a secunda minuta, a sixtieth of a sixtieth). Hence minūta itself came to be used for the unit of time, and that was the original meaning of minute when English acquired it via Old French. Its use for ‘note, record’ may derive from the Latin expression minuta scriptura, which denoted the writing of a rough draft in ‘small’ writing. The adjective minute ‘small’ was an independent 15th-century borrowing direct from Latin. A French descendant of minūtus is the adjective menu ‘small’; its extended sense ‘detailed’ has led to its noun use for ‘list’, and the expression menu de repas ‘meal list’ has given English menu [19]. Other members of the extended family of English words that come ultimately from Latin min- include métier, mince, minim [15], minimum [17], minister, minor, minstrel, minuet [17], minus, minuscule [18], and minutia [15]. => MENU, MÉTIER, MINCE, MINISTER, MINOR, MINSTREL, MINUS, MINUSCULE
* * *
   The sixtieth part of an hour is so called as it is a minute (small) division. More precisely the word comes from the Latin phrase pars minuta prima, 'first minute part.' The second, when it came later, was thus the pars minuta secunda, 'second minute part.' The divisions were originally those of a circle, rather than those of an hour.

The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins. 2013.


Look at other dictionaries:

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  • minute — 1. (mi nu t ) s. f. 1°   La soixantième partie d une heure. Une demi minute. La minute contient soixante secondes.    Compter les minutes, être dans une attente qui fait trouver le temps long. •   Sitôt que quelqu un arrivait... je sortais en… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

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  • Minute — Mi*nute (m[imac]*n[=u]t or m[i^]*n[=u]t ), a. [L. minutus, p. p. of minuere to lessen. See {Minish}, {Minor}, and cf. {Menu}, {Minuet}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Very small; little; tiny; fine; slight; slender; inconsiderable; as, minute details. Minute …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • minute — minute1 [min′it] n. [OFr < ML minuta < L (pars) minuta (prima), (first) small (part), term used by Ptolemy for the sixtieth part of a unit in his system of fractions (of the circle, radius, day, later applied also to the hour): see MINUTE2] …   English World dictionary

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  • minute — [adj1] very small atomic, diminutive, exact, exiguous, fine, inconsiderable, infinitesimal, insignificant, invisible, little, microbic, microscopic, miniature, minim, minimal, minuscule, molecular, peewee*, piddling, precise, puny, slender, teeny …   New thesaurus

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