What Does the Word “Mennonite” Mean? (From an Ex-Mennonite)

Mennonites are a religious denomination of Anabaptists who believe heavily in non-violence, forgiveness, and loving thy enemy.

But where did the name “Mennonite” come from?

We’ll answer that question in the blog post below.

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What Does “Mennonite” Mean?

The name “Mennonite” comes from the founder of the denomination, Menno Simons, and it literally means someone who “follows Menno.”

Simons was a Catholic priest. He had a brother who was a radical Anabaptist during a time in Europe when Christian denominations fought wars against one another.

At some point, Menno’s brother Pietr besieged and overtook a monastery. Afterward, the Catholics retaliated by taking it back — killing Pietr in the process.

This led Menno to leave his position in 1536 and contact the Anabaptists that his brother had met.

At this time, these Anabaptists were surprisingly violent. They sought to fight the Catholic church while solidifying and legitimizing their interpretation of Christianity, which even differed from Protestants.

In fact, Anabaptists were hated by both Catholics and Protestants for one pivotal reason — Anabaptists baptized adults, not children.

As baptism is the most sacred ritual of Christianity, this was seen as an enormous insult, and violence ensued.

But Menno saw things differently.

Instead of fighting one another, Menno preached non-violence and non-violent resistance against those who wanted to kill the Anabaptists.

Many thought he was foolish. But Menno developed a following in Holland, and soon his belief system spread.

By 1544 — just eight years after Menno left the Catholic priesthood — the people who followed him named themselves Mennonites.

Some theological breaks happened in the Mennonites after their founding. Geography spread some apart, so history saw the rise of Mennonites called Swiss Brethren following Menno’s work. In addition, some future leaders — like Jakob Ammann — insisted that punishments did not go far enough in the Mennonite church, and he would go on to break from Mennonite society and start the Amish denomination.

When Menno died in 1561, his ideology continued in the followers who named themselves after him. They disagreed at points, and now you have varied Mennonite denominations that all have different views of the modern world.

But at their core, they still hold the same set of foundational beliefs that Menno preached — non-violence, forgiveness, and adult baptism.

This, at its core, is what makes a Mennonite, complete with their name coming from the founder Menno Simons.

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