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.