1. Minority has meanings at the other end of the scale of magnitude from majority, and is likewise treated as a singular noun except when used with of and a plural noun, in which case it too is plural:

• Only a minority of Germans (around a third of the population according to American surveys carried out in 1945) were prepared to concede that the war was lost —I. Kershaw, 1989.

In one respect, however, minority has gone its own way, namely in its widespread current use referring to any relatively small group of people who differ from others in the society of which they are a part in race, ethnic origin, language, religion, political persuasion, sexual orientation, or other matters that give rise to questions of social treatment or discrimination:

• Flaubert always sides with minorities, with ‘the Bedouin, the Heretic, the philosopher, the hermit, the Poet’ —Julian Barnes, 1985

• Among specific measures provided for in the convention were the launch of at least one radio station and a television network broadcasting in minority languages —Keesings, 1990.

In this meaning minority has acquired some flexibility of use, giving rise to apparently paradoxical collocations such as growing or increasing minority (i.e. increasing in numbers and therefore becoming less rather than more truly a minority):

• Mixed race youngsters are the city's fastest-growing minority group —Express, 2007.

2. Running parallel to this, but in an opposite direction as regards meaning, has been the use of minority as a quasi-adjective meaning ‘of or for a minority’, often with a favourable sense as in minority interests or minority tastes (generally = more exclusive or intellectual):

• Drummond once told me that Radio 3 broadcasts to about 30 minority tastes, each of which is characterised by its intense dislike of the other 29 —Daily Telegraph, 1992.

An early exponent of the idea of minority culture was the Cambridge academic F. R. Leavis, whose influential book Mass Civilization and Minority Culture was published in 1930. It is noteworthy that this use of minority, in relation to culture, implies an element of superiority or privilege, whereas the use described above, in relation to social position, implies one of inferiority or deprivation.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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