an unimportant person who has to do what a more powerful person tells them to do
Origin and usage
The word minion comes from the Middle French word ‘mignon’ meaning ‘darling, favourite’. It first appeared in English during the 1500s and was used to mean ‘a low dependent’ or ‘a person who pleases instead of benefits’.
Minion is a noun that refers to someone who does whatever a more powerful person commands. Though the word minion was first used to describe a favourite or an agreeable darling, over time the word has come to have a more negative meaning.
In fiction writing, the minion is a common character archetype. An archetype is a model character that is used as an example of typical behaviour. Archetype characters have specific traits and actions that are repeated over and over in stories to give them more depth. Other common character archetypes in fiction include the hero, the mentor and the trickster.
The minion archetype – sometimes called the henchman – is usually associated with the villain in a story, book, movie, television show or play. Minions do the bidding of the villain, often carrying out evil or dangerous plans intended to harm or discourage the hero. Minion characters are often a group of nameless individuals that lack clearly defined personalities in a work of fiction.
Some well-known minion groups in popular culture include the Flying Monkeys in The Wizard of Oz, the Imperial Stormtroopers in the Star Wars franchise and, of course, the widely recognized yellow Minions from the Despicable Me films.
“History is rich with adventurous men, long on charisma, with a highly developed instinct for their own interests, who have pursued personal power – bypassing parliaments and constitutions, distributing favours to their minions, and conflating their own desires with the interests of the community.”