A c. 1900 postcard by the German graphic artist, photographer and printer Ludwig Hemmer (died 1925). The caption reads: “Das Zwergendorf mit seinen Bewohnern” (“The village of dwarves with its inhabitants”).

Borrowed from German Männlein (a little man), from Mann (man) + -lein (suffix indicating a diminutive form); compare English manling.



Männlein (plural Männleins)

  1. A little man; a dwarf, a mannikin.
    • 1847 June 5, “Sketch of the Traditions of Germany”, in Sharpe's London Magazine: A Journal of Entertainment and Instruction for General Reading, volume IV, number 84, London: T. B. Sharpe, 15, Skinner Street, Snow Hill, OCLC 173424679, page 83, column 2:
      There was the wife of the männlein, dressed in a robe of silk, richer far than was ever worn by wife of burgomaster; and there were his brothers, and his daughter, with her fair hair falling over her shoulders, and her exquisitely soft blue eye.
    • 1902 May, M. C. Gale; H. Gale, “Children's Vocabularies”, in J. McKeen Cattell, editor, The Popular Science Monthly, volume LXI, New York, N.Y.: The Science Press, OCLC 954266628, pages 4950:
      It is astonishing how this activity keeps up to the end of the day and how the child struggles against fatigue and sleepiness. After having looked at his Brownie book in bed awhile S. was laid down by his mother to be sung to sleep as usual and the gas was turned down. Whereat he said: "[…] right,—Yes. M., S. want those two pieces paper,—give S. some paper. 8. have to roll up. M. cover S. Where P.? Where P.? M., where P.? M. sing loud. M. lie down on P. bed," when the Männlein suddenly fell off to sleep.
    • 1968, Philip Toynbee, Views from a Lake: the Seventh Day of the Valediction of Pantaloon, London: Chatto & Windus, OCLC 42311, page 115:
      Hungry for home and a husband sturdy Dorothea / Has wandered far to catch herself a man; a Männlein.
    • 1983, Norman Spinrad, The Void Captain's Tale[1], New York, N.Y.: Timescape Books, →ISBN:
      "To teach a lesson that you must learn, mannlein," she said harshly. "To strip away the final veil."
    • 2006, Thomas Harris, Hannibal Rising: A Novel, New York, N.Y.: Delacorte Press, →ISBN, page 300:
      He put his pistol under Hannibal's chin and patted him down. He kicked Hannibal's gun away. Grutas took a stiletto from his belt and poked the tip into Hannibal's legs. They did not move. "Shot in the spine, my little Mannlein," Grutas said.

Alternative formsEdit




From Middle High German menlīn, mennelīn, from Old High German menlīn, mennilīn, mannilīn, equivalent to Mann +‎ -lein. Compare English manling.



Männlein n (genitive Männleins, plural Männlein or Männleins)

  1. (southern, possibly dated) male animal
  2. Diminutive of Mann

Usage notesEdit

  • The plural generally remains unchanged. Männleins is a rarer and possibly dated variant in the diminutive sense. (Compare Fräulein, in which the s-plural is quite common.)






Related termsEdit