A tenacious memory and an early enthusiasm for learning carried him speedily through his literary and professional studies, and he practised at the bar at Angers as early as 1632. In the same year he pleaded several causes before the parlement of Paris. but illness induced him to abandon the legal profession for the church. He became prior of Montdidier without taking holy orders, and lived for some years in the household of Cardinal de Retz (then coadjutor to the archbishop of Paris), where he had leisure for literary pursuits.
Some time after 1648 he quarrelled with his patron and withdrew to a house in the cloister of Nôtre-Dame, where he gathered round him on Wednesday evenings those literary assemblies which he called "Mercuriales." Chapelain, Pellisson, Conrart, Sarrazin and Du Bos were among the habitués. He was admitted to the Della Cruscan Academy of Florence, but his caustic sarcasm led to his exclusion from the Académie française. Ménage made many enemies and suffered under the satire of Boileau and of Molière. Molière immortalized him as the pedant Vadius in Les Femmes savantes, a portrait Ménage pretended to ignore.
Of his works the following may be mentioned: Poemata latina, gallica, graeca, et italica (1656); Origini della lingua italiana (1669); Dictionnaire etymologique (1650 and 1670); Observations sur la langue française (1672-1676), and Anti-Bailet (1690).