"slow, graceful dance in triple measure," 1670s, from French menuet, from Old French menuet (adj.) "small, fine, delicate, narrow," from menu "small," from Latin minutus "small, minute" (from PIE root *mei- (2) "small"). So called from the short steps taken in the dance. The spelling was influenced in English by Italian minuetto. As "music for a minuet," by 1680s. Perhaps invented in mid-17c. France, the minuet was, through the 18c., the most popular of the more stately dances.
updated on January 25, 2019