Fun Etymology Tuesday – Minute


Today is Tuesday! Again! Gosh, where does the time go?! Speaking of, in today’s Fun Etymology Tuesday, we’ll continue to look a bit closer at time – particularly, we’ll trace the time measurement ‘minute’ throughout.. well, time.

So, ‘minute’ means the sixtieth part of an hour and it came to English from Old French ‘minut’ or directly from Latin ‘minuta’, meaning minute or short note, during the late 14th century. The Medieval Latin form, in turn, comes from Latin minuta, an inflected version of minutus, meaning little or small, which hails from the PIE root *mei-, meaning small.

Oh, if you remember last week, we had the secunda pars minuta? Well, the minute is the minuta prima, meaning ‘first small part’, a term first used by a mathematician to describe one-sixtieth of a circle.

What’s interesting to note among these time measurement is the close similarity in many PIE-languages: minute (English), minut (Swedish), minuut (Dutch), minute (French), minuto (Italian), minat (Hindi), minút (Frisian)… you get the drift?

Next week, though, we’ll introduce you to yet another concept of time, one which is significantly different in some of the Germanic languages.. Tune in then and listen (read) to the tale of the hour (or should we say ‘timme’ or ‘Stunde’?)!

See you next week!

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