Definition of menial in US English:



  • 1(of work) not requiring much skill and lacking prestige.

    ‘menial factory jobs’
    • ‘Many refugees who were professionals in their countries now find themselves performing menial tasks or manual labor.’
    • ‘Most of them have done menial work throughout their student life to help see them through university.’
    • ‘Approach everything menial as something special and it need never be menial again.’
    • ‘My brain must be shrinking the longer I spend here, because I seem to derive great happiness and satisfaction from menial tasks.’
    • ‘The nearest university is a six to eight hours drive, so many of the children go on to work in a nearby factory doing menial labour.’
    • ‘They will be allowed to perform menial tasks that require no skill whatsoever.’
    • ‘Regardless of whether she enjoyed the menial work of typing or selling or waitressing or clerking, she at least had freedom of movement to a degree.’
    • ‘Transcribing the information was menial work that did not require her level of expertise to do - it was likely this guy just wanted her to do the work for him, so he would not have to.’
    • ‘Cheng said they would often look for menial work in restaurants or labouring work around the city.’
    • ‘By contrast, women from high-class families had maids to take care of most household chores and other menial work and thus worked far less than men or women in lower socioeconomic groups.’
    • ‘He finds he is not mean-spirited enough to be a criminal, not tough enough to be a police officer, and too smart to subject himself to menial work.’
    • ‘This crisis causes farmers to abandon their land and migrate toward urban areas to find menial work, or to illegally immigrate to more financially stable countries.’
    • ‘The lack of confidence and education forced some to work on menial tasks.’
    • ‘Life for most was dull and without pleasantries, simply killing time with menial tasks.’
    • ‘When they hit the fleet, they face a year of menial tasks - scrubbing toilets, burning trash, picking up litter.’
    • ‘Food and shelter are the greatest problems, and many children have lost families or work at menial tasks to provide meager, subsistence-level support.’
    • ‘He busied himself, sweeping the visitor's quarters, washing their clothes and helping with the most menial work in fields.’
    • ‘Try to set yourself a menial task - eg, setting the table, cleaning the bath, making the tea - whilst you sing.’
    • ‘His daily duties entailed preparing vegetables, doing the dishes and the other menial tasks that no one else wanted.’
    • ‘That means his mission commander can ask him to clean the air filters, unload some equipment, or take care of other menial tasks.’
    unskilled, lowly, humble, low-grade, low-status, routine, humdrum, boring, dull
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    1. 1.1dated attributive (of a servant) domestic.
      • ‘In the eleventh century the Norse kings probably had an immediate retinue of about ninety men, excluding menial servants and hangers on.’
      • ‘Owen lowered his gaze as they passed the two guards posted nearby and adopted the attitude of a menial servant busy running an errand.’
      • ‘If Saturn lacks dignity it can indicate the lower regions of society: foolish people, down and outs, scavengers, beggars and employees who act as servants or menial staff to others.’
      • ‘The worst definition for a woman's occupation was the one she was likeliest to have: a menial servant.’
      • ‘Nor were we happy with how some of the churches educated, when they seemed to train the young primarily for menial pursuits such as domestics.’
      • ‘As one of the more respected maids, she did not have to bother with the menial tasks such as preparing the fires, she was merely there to serve the food, and assist in the general goings on of castle life.’


  • 1A person with a menial job.

    • ‘As a menial, I was never told who these men were, never introduced to them, but I assumed they were the backers who had money at risk.’
    • ‘While she was gone a menial came by to light the ceiling lamps, a touch with a burning taper on the end of a pole and the gas wicks glowed to life.’
    • ‘The stairs leading from the servants level to ground were well-travelled routes, with untold scores of menials scurrying to and fro between their masters and duties.’
    • ‘Despite tall claims that a determined attempt to eradicate child labour has been initiated, hundreds and thousands of children are still languishing as menials in households, if not in hazardous industries.’
    1. 1.1dated A domestic servant.
      • ‘Though the play dealt with serious issues like the domestic help being regarded as ‘untouchables’ and treated as menials, it elicited plenty of laughter from the crowd.’
      servant, domestic servant, domestic, drudge, maid of all work
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Late Middle English (in the sense ‘domestic’): from Old French, from mesnee ‘household’.