AskDefine | Define minuet

Dictionary Definition



1 a stately court dance in the 17th century
2 a stately piece of music composed for dancing the minuet; often incorporated into a sonata or suite

User Contributed Dictionary




From menuet, from menu ‘small’ + diminutive -et.


  1. A slow graceful dance consisting of a coupé, a high step, and a balance.
  2. A tune or air to regulate the movements of the dance so called; a movement in suites, sonatas, symphonies, etc., having the dance form, and commonly in 3/4, sometimes 3/8, measure.


music accompanying the dance

Extensive Definition

''This article is about the dance. For the Star Trek character, see Minuet (Star Trek). For the operating system, see MenuetOS. For the web-browser/e-mail software, see Minnesota Internet Users Essential Tool. For the Italian EMU (electric multiple unit), see FS ALe 501/502 Minuetto.
A minuet, sometimes spelled menuet, is a social dance of French origin for two persons, usually in 3/4 time. The word was adapted, under the influence of the Italian minuetto, from the French menuet, meaning small, pretty, delicate, a diminutive of menu, from the Latin minutus; menuetto is a word that occurs only on musical scores. The word refers probably to the short steps, pas menus'', taken in the dance. At the period when it was most fashionable it was slow, ceremonious, and graceful.
The name is also given to a musical composition written in the same time and rhythm, but when not accompanying an actual dance the pace was quicker. Stylistically refined minuets, apart from the social dance context, were introduced — to opera at first — by Jean-Baptiste Lully, and in the late 17th century the minuet was adopted into the suite, such as some of the suites of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Händel. As the other dances that made up a Baroque suite dropped out of use, the minuet retained its popularity. Among Italian composers, the minuet was often considerably quicker and livelier, and was sometimes written in 3/8 or 6/8 time. A minuet was often used as the final movement in an Italian overture. Initially, before its adoption in contexts other than social dance, the minuet was usually in binary form, with two sections of usually eight bars each, but the second section eventually expanded, resulting in a kind of ternary form. On a larger scale, two such minuets were often combined, so that the first minuet was followed by a second one, and finally by a repetition of the first. The second (or middle) minuet usually provided some form of contrast, by means of different key and orchestration. Around Lully's time, it became a common practice to score this section for a trio (such as two oboes and a bassoon, as is common in Lully). As a result, this middle section came to be called trio, even when no trace of such an orchestration remains.
The minuet and trio eventually became the standard third movement in the four-movement classical symphony, Johann Stamitz being the first to employ it thus with regularity. A livelier form of the minuet later developed into the scherzo (which was generally also coupled with a trio). This term came into existence approximately from Beethoven onwards, but the form itself can be traced back to Haydn.
An example of the true form of the minuet is to be found in Don Giovanni.
The minuet also remained in some countries as elements in folk dance, such as in Finland and parts of Sweden. The minuet is also a stately court dance of the 17th and 18th centuries.

See also

  • Minuet step, a description of the basic step of the dance
minuet in Czech: Menuet
minuet in German: Menuett
minuet in Estonian: Menuett
minuet in Spanish: Minueto
minuet in French: Menuet
minuet in Italian: Minuetto
minuet in Hebrew: מינואט
minuet in Hungarian: Menüett
minuet in Dutch: Menuet
minuet in Japanese: メヌエット
minuet in Norwegian: Menuett
minuet in Polish: Menuet
minuet in Portuguese: Minueto
minuet in Romanian: Menuet
minuet in Russian: Менуэт
minuet in Simple English: Minuet
minuet in Serbian: Менует
minuet in Finnish: Menuetti
minuet in Swedish: Menuett
minuet in Thai: มินูเอ็ต
minuet in Chinese: 小步舞曲
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