Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To cut or chop into very small pieces.
  • intransitive verb To subdivide (land, for example) into minute parts.
  • intransitive verb To pronounce in an affected way, as with studied elegance and refinement.
  • intransitive verb To moderate, restrain, or euphemize (words) for the sake of politeness and decorum.
  • intransitive verb To walk with very short steps or with exaggerated primness.
  • intransitive verb To speak in an affected way.
  • noun Finely chopped food, especially mincemeat.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To make less; make small; specifically, to cut or chop into very small pieces: as, to mince meat.
  • To lessen; diminish; especially, to diminish in speaking; speak of lightly or slightingly; minimize.
  • To utter primly: bring or show forth sparingly or in a half-spoken way; hence, to display with affected delicacy; use affectation in regard to: as, to mince one's words or a narrative; to mince the lapses of one's neighbors; a minced oath.
  • To effect mincingly.
  • To walk with short steps or with affected nicety; affect delicacy in manner.
  • To speak with affected elegance.
  • noun Same as mince-meat.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To walk with short steps; to walk in a prim, affected manner.
  • intransitive verb To act or talk with affected nicety; to affect delicacy in manner.
  • transitive verb To cut into very small pieces; to chop fine; to hash.
  • transitive verb To suppress or weaken the force of; to extenuate; to palliate; to tell by degrees, instead of directly and frankly; to clip, as words or expressions; to utter half and keep back half of.
  • transitive verb rare To affect; to make a parade of.
  • noun A short, precise step; an affected manner.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun uncountable Finely chopped meat.
  • noun uncountable Finely chopped mixed fruit used in Christmas pies; mincemeat.
  • noun countable An affected (often dainty or short and precise) gait.
  • noun countable An affected manner, especially of speaking; an affectation.
  • verb transitive To make less; make small.
  • verb transitive To lessen; diminish; to diminish in speaking; speak of lightly or slightingly; minimise.
  • verb transitive, rare To effect mincingly.
  • verb transitive, cooking To cut into very small pieces; to chop fine.
  • verb transitive To suppress or weaken the force of; to extenuate; to palliate; to tell by degrees, instead of directly and frankly; to clip, as words or expressions; to utter half and keep back half of.
  • verb transitive To affect; to pronounce affectedly or with an accent.
  • verb intransitive To walk with short steps; to walk in a prim, affected manner.
  • verb intransitive To act or talk with affected nicety; to affect delicacy in manner.
  • verb archaic To diminish the force of.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun food chopped into small bits
  • verb make less severe or harsh
  • verb walk daintily
  • verb cut into small pieces

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English mincen, from Old French mincier, from Vulgar Latin *minūtiāre, from Latin minūtia, smallness; see minutia.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English mincen, minsen; partly from Old English minsian ("to make less, make smaller, diminish"), from Proto-Germanic *minnisōnan (“to make less”); partly from Old French mincer, mincier ("to cut into small pieces"), from mince ("slender, slight, puny"), from Frankish *minsto, *minnisto, superlative of *min, *minn ("small, less"), from Proto-Germanic *minniz (“less”); both from Proto-Indo-European *(e)mey- (“small, little”). Cognate with Old Saxon minsōn ("to make less, make smaller"), Gothic 𐌼𐌹𐌽𐌶𐌽𐌰𐌽 (minznan, "to become less, diminish"), Swedish minska ("to reduce, lessen"), Gothic 𐌼𐌹𐌽𐍃 (mins, "slender, slight"). More at min.

Examples

Comments

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  • ...her small stiff steps ... minced down the hall and died out in the distance.

    - Edith Wharton, The Reef

    June 28, 2008

  • (..) Her father, faithful keeper, fed me well,

    but she came daily with my special bowl

    barefoot into my cage (..)

    Until today: an icy spectre, sheathed

    in silk, minced to my side on pointed feet.

    I ripped the scented veil from its unreal

    head (..) A ghost has bones, and meat!

    Come soon, my love, my bride, and share this meal.

    - Gwen Harwood, The Lion's Bride

    August 31, 2008

  • I'm trying to understand the connection between the definition of mince in phrases like minced oath and mince your words and its etymology "minūtiāre"-- to make smaller. Because every time I hear "I'm not one to mince my words", the first thing I picture is someone with a bunch of words on a chopping board and a cleaver.

    Is the idea that a minced oath, in general, was not only euphemized, but also contracted, i.e. made smaller?

    June 11, 2010

  • In Japanese culture, the mincing gait seems to describe the behavior and effects associated with foot binding.

    June 12, 2010

  • If felt strange to be going about the opening routine, just as if Lafayette were going to mince in any minute with a story about some party he'd been to, the way he had a few days before. -Charlaine Harris, Living Dead in Dallas

    December 11, 2010