Printable Version
Pronunciation: meen-i-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Unskilled, insignificant, drudging, lowest as 'menial job'. 2. Properly performed by a servant or domestic.

Notes: Today's Good Word may be used as a noun, as 'to work as a menial', meaning to carry out menial work. That adverb is menially and the noun, meniality.

In Play: Menial work is drudgery: "Many an aspiring actor has spent years doing menial work before getting a significant role." As a noun, we see it in sentences like: "Maggie worked as a menial for the Radcliffs on Snob Hill until she broke the Ming vase."

Word History: Today's word is a makeover of Anglo-French meignial from Old French mesnie "household", earlier mesnede. This word is a reduction of Latin mansio(n) "dwelling, abiding, staying over", the action noun based on the past participle stem of manere "to stay, abide". Latin is apparently the only Indo-European language that inherited the PIE root men- "to remain". We find it in no other I-E language but see it in several Latinate English words like mansion, manor, remain, and permanent. The link between mansion and menial can be sensed in the attitude toward the serving staff in mansions and manors of old.

Dr. Goodword,

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