noun, plural (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) min·nows, (especially collectively, Rare) min·now for 1–3.

a small, European cyprinoid fish, Phoxinus phoxinus.
any other fish of the family Cyprinidae, including the carps, goldfishes, and daces.
any of various unrelated, small fishes.
a person or thing that is comparatively small or insignificant.

Origin of minnow

1325–75; Middle English minwe, Old English *mynwe (feminine) for myne (masculine); cognate with Old High German munewa kind of fish
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for minnow

Contemporary Examples of minnow

Historical Examples of minnow

  • I always treat a minnow as Izaak Walton spoke of a frog, "as if I loved him."

    Black Bass

    Charles Barker Bradford

  • The Editor says that one was a minnow and that the rest were sticklebacks.

  • The little loop was still on the fragment of minnow tackle which fastened it to the cast.

    Angling Sketches

    Andrew Lang

  • The Minnow was meant for short heavy hops to planets or asteroids.

    Accidental Death

    Peter Baily

  • Some of the fishes are as common as the schoolboy's familiar friend, the minnow.

British Dictionary definitions for minnow


noun plural -nows or -now

a small slender European freshwater cyprinid fish, Phoxinus phoxinus
any other small cyprinid
angling a spinning lure imitating a minnow
a small or insignificant person

Word Origin for minnow

C15: related to Old English myne minnow; compare Old High German muniwa fish
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for minnow

small freshwater fish, early 15c., probably related to Old English myne, earlier *mynwe, a name for some kind of fish, from Proto-Germanic *muniwon (cf. Middle Low German möne, Dutch meun, Old High German muniwa, German Münne), of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE *men- "small." Perhaps influenced in Middle English by French menu "small."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper