) KEY NOUN:
- A list of the dishes to be served or available for a meal.
- The dishes served or available at a meal.
- A list of available options, especially as displayed on a screen.
French, small, minute, menu
, from Old French menut
, from Latin mintus
, past participle of minuere
, to diminish
; see mei-2
in Indo-European rootsWORD HISTORY:
An enormous menu might be considered an oxymoron if one were to restrict the word etymologically. Menu
can be traced back to the Latin word mintus,
meaning "small in size, amount, or degree" and also "possessing or involving minute knowledge." Latin mintus
became Old French menut
and Modern French menu,
"small, fine, trifling, minute." The French adjective came to be used as a noun with the sense of "detail, details collectively," and "detailed list." As such, it was used in the phrase menu de repas,
"list of items of a meal," which was shortened to menu.
This word was borrowed into English, being first recorded in 1837. The French word had been borrowed before, perhaps only briefly, as a shortening of the French phrase menu peuple,
"the common people." This usage, however, is recorded in only one text, in 1658.