1907, from Russian men'shevik, from men'she "lesser" (comparative of malo "little," from PIE root *mei- (2) "small") + -evik "one that is." So called by Lenin because they were a minority in the party. The Russian word was used earlier in reference to the minority faction of the Social-Democratic Party when it split in 1903. See Bolshevik. As a noun from 1917. Russian plural mensheviki occasionally was used in English. Related: Menshevism; Menshevist.
1907, "person who advocates moderate reforms or policies;" see minimal + -ist. Originally an Englishing of Menshevik (q.v.); in sense of "practitioner of minimal art" it is first recorded 1967; the term minimal art itself is from 1965. As an adjective from 1917 in the Russian political sense; 1969 in reference to art. Related: Minimalistic; Minimalism.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "small."
It forms all or part of: administer; administration; comminute; diminish; meiosis; Menshevik; menu; metier; mince; minestrone; minim; minimum; minister; ministration; ministry; minor; minuend; minuet; minus; minuscule; minute; minutia; Miocene; mis- (2); mite (n.2) "little bit;" mystery (n.2) "handicraft, trade, art;" nimiety.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit miyate "diminishes, declines;" Greek meion "less, smaller;" Latin minus, minor "smaller," minuere "to diminish, reduce, lessen;" Old English minsian "to diminish;" Russian men'she "less."