Why Meeting Notes are Called “Minutes”

Jesse asks: Why are the notes taken at a meeting called the “minutes”? Was this because the note taker records the notes along with the time?

Now You Know

Not quite.  In fact, the “minutes” here have nothing to do with time, but rather “small”, as in “minute” (my-newt).  “Minutes” in this sense first popped up in the early 18th century, possibly directly from the Latin “minuta scriptura”, meaning “small notes” or just “minuta”, meaning “small” or possibly via the 16th century “minute” definition of “rough draft” from the preceding Latin.

Whatever the case, “minutes” as in “meeting notes” is referencing this sense of condensing something down (small) as in the “my-newt” (minute) pronunciation, not as in “seconds, minutes, hours”.

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  • Hello!

    I could not find any other source where it is pronounced as ‘ my-newt ‘ .
    Could you please refer me some credible source where we can confirm this is the correct pronunciation!?

    It’s funny because all my life I always had thought it was pronounced ‘my-newt ‘ !!

    But, the other day I read a message for a friend and I said ‘my-newt’s of the meeting…and everyone just jumped on me to correct me! Please help!! 🙂

    Thanks and Regards,

    Bangalore, India

    • Usage over many years brought a change from “my newt” to “minits”. No big deal. Language does that a lot through usage. Tomarto -tomayto”

  • Hi Jeevan,

    I also heard it being pronounced as “my-newt” when watching a forensic science program NOVA on Netflix last night.

    Just to make sure that I heard it right, I rewound that part several times and heard it saying “My-Newt”

    Shaikh Naser

  • i had a similar experience as @Jeevan. because of my seniors now i pronounce minutes of the meeting rather than mynutes but going by the definition here it seems that my pronunciation was not incorrect but i am confused. can somebody clarify or site another reference source

  • The explanation is incomplete. There are two words that are spelled ‘minute’ in English. One is pronounced ‘my-newt’ and means ‘tiny’ or ‘small.’ The other is pronounced ‘minnit’ and means either the 60th of an hour or the notes taken at a meeting. Both of the ‘minnit’ words and the ‘my-newt’ word came from a Latin root that is pronounced approximately ‘minoot’ but nowadays in English the word for ‘tiny’ is pronounced ‘my-newt’ and both the 60th of an hour and the notes from a meeting are pronounced ‘minnit.’

  • I don’t know how credible is google, but in the dictionary when you search minute, there are 3 minute words.
    1st one is pronounced as “minit” in terms of time.
    2nd one is pronounced as “my-newt” in terms of small quantity.
    3rd one is pronounced as “minit” too, defined as “a summarized record of the proceedings at a meeting”.

    So, I guess it would be meeting minit, instead of meeting mynewt. I had been pronouncing it differently till now.

  • Rather than minutes, would'”notes” also be accurate for a summary of an Association meeting?