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Mennist (Menist, and in the 18th century erroneously Benist), a Dutch and German term for "Mennonite." The earliest known appearance of the term was in a mandate of Countess Anna of East Friesland in 1545, where it was used to distinguish the followers of Menno from the Davidjorists and the Batenburgers. It was frequently used in the Netherlands as well as in government decrees of other countries, such as the Palatinate. In North Germany the term "Mennonisten" was long current. But after the 19th century only the designation "Mennoniten" has been preserved in German-language regions. -- Hege

A letter written by King John II Casimir of Poland in 1660 called the Dutch Mennonite immigrants "Minnists." Hans Alenson in his Tegen-Bericht (Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica VII, 242) says that the Frisians in 1626 were the first to use the name Mennist or Mennoniet. Though the term Menist was still commonly used in Friesland in the mid-20th century, the Dutch Mennonites were generally called Doopsgezind.

In the Dutch and Frisian languages there were a number of expressions and sayings dealing with Mennonites; for example, the name "Mennistenhemel" (heaven) given to an area on the Vecht River in the province of Utrecht, where wealthy Mennonites built their stately country homes in the 18th century. A "Menniste hemel" was also found at Ureterp, Friesland. A number of these names and sayings were collected by D. M. van der Woude and published: "De Mennisten over de tong" (DJ 1941, 39-48) and "Menniste Naimen" (Doopsgezind Jaarboekje  1942, 44-50).

Also frequently mentioned are "Mennisten leugen" (lies) and "Menniste streken" (tricks), meaning distorted truths or half-truths. These expressions probably originated in a 16th-century story about Menno Simons: Menno was once traveling in a coach which was stopped by police looking for him. When they asked whether Menno Simons was in the coach, Menno is said to have asked the passengers, "Is Menno Simons in here?" and replied to the officers, "They say he is not here." The same story is told of Hans Busschaert. (See J. G. de Hoop Scheffer, "Mennisten-streken," Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1868, 23-48.)

A familiar expression in Dutch literature is "Menniste Zusje" (girl), meaning a young woman dressed in the modest Mennonite way and apparently an example of virtue, but doing things on the sly. C. N. Wybrands in 1913 published an important study on this material, entitled Het Menniste Zusje. Menniste Zusje was also the common Dutch name for the flower of the saxifraga nutans.

See Mennonite (The Name)

Author(s) Christian Hege
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Mennist." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 2 Dec 2023.

APA style

Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1957). Mennist. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 December 2023, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 574. All rights reserved.

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