A minuet, also spelled menuet, is a social dance of French origin for two people, usually in 3/4 time. The word was adapted from Italian minuetto and French menuet, and may have been from French menu meaning slender, small, referring to the very small steps, or from the early 17th-century popular group dances called branle à mener or amener.

The term also describes the musical form which accompanied the dance, and subsequently developed more fully, often with a longer structure called the minuet and trio.



The name may refer to the short steps, pas menus, taken in the dance, or else be derived from the branle à mener or amener, popular group dances in early 17th-century France (Little 2001). The minuet was traditionally said to have descended from the bransle de Poitou, though there is no evidence making a clear connection between these two dances. The earliest treatise to mention the possible connection of the name to the expression pas menus is Gottfried Taubert's Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister, published in Leipzig in 1717, but this source does not describe the steps as being particularly small or dainty (Russell 2006, 140–41). At the period when it was most fashionable it was slow, soft, ceremonious, and graceful.


Rhythm and form

Minuet rhythm (Blatter 2007, 28)

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, who included no less than 92 of them in his theatrical works (Little 2001) 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. Among Italian composers, the minuet was often considerably quicker and livelier, and was sometimes written in 3/8 or 6/8 time. 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.

Minuet and trio

Around Lully's time, it became a common practice to score this middle 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.[citation needed] The overall structure is called rounded binary or minuet form (Rosen 1988, 29):

A      :||: B                           A or A'
I(->V) :||: V(or other closely related) I

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.[citation needed] 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.

A famous example of a more recent instrumental work in minuet form is Ignacy Jan Paderewski's Minuet in G.

See also

  • Scherzo, a musical form derived from the minuet


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

  • Blatter, Alfred. 2007. Revisiting Music Theory: A Guide to the Practice. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415974402.
  • Little, Meredith Ellis. 2001. "Minuet". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Rosen, Charles. 1988. Sonata Forms, revised edition. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0393302199.
  • Russell, Tilden. 2006. "The Minuet According to Taubert". Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research 24, no. 2 (Winter): 138–62.
  • Sutton, Julia. 1985. "The Minuet: An Elegant Phoenix". Dance Chronicle, no. 8:119–52.

Further reading

  • Caplin, William Earl. 1998. Classical Form: A Theory of Formal Functions for the Instrumental Music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195104803 (cloth); ISBN 019514399X (pbk). (pp. 220ff).
  • Elson, Louis Charles. 1908. The Theory of Music as Applied to the Teaching and Practice of Voice and Instruments, 21st edition. Boston: New England Conservatory of Music. (pp. 157ff).

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • minuet — ► NOUN ▪ a stately ballroom dance in triple time, popular in the 18th century. ► VERB (minueted, minueting) ▪ dance a minuet. ORIGIN from French menuet fine, delicate …   English terms dictionary

  • Minuet — Min u*et, n. [F., fr. menu small, L. minutus small. So called on account of the short steps of the dance. See 4th {Minute}.] [1913 Webster] 1. A slow graceful dance consisting of a coupee, a high step, and a balance. [1913 Webster] 2. (Mus.) A… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • minuet — англ. [миньюэ/т] minuetto ит. [минуэ/тто] менуэт …   Словарь иностранных музыкальных терминов

  • minuet — (n.) slow dance in triple measure, 1670s, from Fr. menuet, from O.Fr. menuet (adj.) small, fine, delicate, narrow, from menu small, from L. minutus small, minute (see MINUTE (Cf. minute) (adj.)). So called from the short steps taken in the dance …   Etymology dictionary

  • minuet — [min΄yo͞o et′] n. [Fr menuet, orig., minute, tiny < OFr < menu (see MENU): from the small steps taken] 1. a slow, stately dance for groups of couples, introduced in France in the 17th cent. 2. the music for this, in 3/4 time: often a… …   English World dictionary

  • minuet — /min yooh et /, n. 1. a slow, stately dance in triple meter, popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. 2. a piece of music for such a dance or in its rhythm. [1665 75; < F menuet, equiv. to menu small (see MENU) + et ET; so called from the… …   Universalium

  • minuet — n. to dance; play a minuet * * * play a minuet to dance …   Combinatory dictionary

  • minuet — [[t]mɪ̱njue̱t[/t]] minuets 1) N COUNT In the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a minuet is a piece of music with three beats in a bar which is played at moderate speed. 2) N COUNT A minuet is a fairly slow and formal dance which… …   English dictionary

  • minuet — noun a stately ballroom dance in triple time, popular in the 18th century. ↘a piece of music in triple time in the style of a minuet, typically as a movement in a suite, sonata, or symphony. verb (minuets, minueting, minueted) dance a minuet.… …   English new terms dictionary

  • minuet — UK [ˌmɪnjuˈet] / US noun [countable] Word forms minuet : singular minuet plural minuets music a slow dance that was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, done by a man and woman together, or the music for this dance …   English dictionary