c. 1500, "a favorite; a darling, one who or that which is beloved" (a sense now obsolete), from Old French mignon "a favorite, darling" (n.), also a term of (probably homosexual) abuse; as an adjective, "dainty, pleasing, favorite," from mignot "pretty, attractive, dainty, gracious, affectionate." The French word is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Celtic (compare Old Irish min "tender, soft"), or from Old High German minnja, minna "love, memory" (see minnesinger).
Used 16c.-17c. without disparaging overtones, but also from c. 1500 as "a favorite of a sovereign prince," especially "an intriguing favorite, a low or servile dependent." It also was used from 16c. for "a pert or saucy girl."