late 15c., "with subtraction of," from Latin minus "less," neuter of minor "smaller" (from PIE *mi-nu-, suffixed form of root *mei- (2) "small").
According to OED, this mathematical prepositional use in expressions of calculation was not in the classical Latin word and probably is from North Sea medieval commercial usage of Latin plus and minus to indicate surplus or deficiency of weight or measure.
The origin and original signification of the "minus sign" is disputed. As "deprived of, not having," by 1813. Of temperature, etc., "below 0 or the lowest point of positive reckoning, belonging to the inverse or negative side," by 1811.
1650s, "the minus sign," from minus (prep.). From 1708 as "a negative quantity, a quantity subtracted."
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."
1705, "small (not capital) letter," from French minuscule (17c.), from Latin minuscula, in minuscula littera "slightly smaller letter," fem. of minusculus "rather less, rather small," diminutive of minus "less" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). It refers to the kind of reduced alphabetical character which arose 7c. and was from about 9c. substituted in writing for the large uncial. From it the small or lower-case letters of the modern Latin alphabet were derived.
As an adjective, from 1727 in printing, "not capital, of reduced form, small" (of letters); the general sense of "extremely small" is attested by 1893. Related: Minuscular.
"except for; but for; minus," also "with due respect or consideration for" (one's honor, etc.), late 14c.; see save (prep.).
word-forming element of Latin origin (in mischief, miscreant, misadventure, misnomer, etc.), from Old French mes- "bad, badly, wrong, wrongly," from Vulgar Latin *minus-, from Latin minus "less" (from suffixed form of PIE root *mei- (2) "small"), which was not used as a prefix in Latin but in the Romanic languages was affixed to words as a depreciative or negative element. The form in French perhaps was influenced in Old French by *miss-, the Frankish (Germanic) form of mis- (1).
1570s, the oral rendering of the arithmetical sign +, also "more by a certain amount" (correlative to minus), from Latin plus "more, in greater number, more often" (comparative of multus "much"), altered (by influence of minus) from *pleos, from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill" (see poly-). The plus sign itself has been well-known at least since late 15c. and is perhaps an abbreviation of Latin et (see et cetera).
As a preposition, between two numbers to indicate addition, from 1660s. [Barnhart writes that this sense "did not exist in Latin and probably originated in commercial language of the Middle Ages;" OED writes that "the words plus and minus were used by Leonardo of Pisa in 1202."] Placed after a whole number to indicate "and a little more," it is attested by 1902. As a conjunction, "and, and in addition," it is American English colloquial, attested by 1968. As a noun meaning "an advantage" from 1791. Plus fours "distinctive style of long, wide knickerbockers" (1921) were four inches longer in the leg than standard knickerbockers, to produce an overhang, originally a style associated with golfers.
1834, "low, short, four-wheeled, close carriage without the front seat, carrying two inside, with an outside seat for the driver," also "front compartment of a stage coach," from French coupe (18c.), short for carrosse coupe "cut-off carriage," a shorter version of the Berlin, minus the back seat, from couper "to cut (in half);" see coup. Applied to closed two-door automobiles by 1897. Coup de ville is from 1931, originally a car with an open driver's position and an enclosed passenger compartment.
1837, "detailed list of dishes to be served at a banquet or meal," from French menu de repas "list of what is served at a meal," from French menu (adj.) "small, detailed" (11c.), from Latin minutus "small," literally "made smaller," past participle of minuere "to diminish," from root of minus "to diminish" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). Computer sense of "list of options displayed on a screen" is by 1967, from the expanded sense of "any detailed list," which is attested by 1889.