from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A copy or model that represents or reproduces something in a greatly reduced size.
  • n. Something small of its class.
  • n. A small painting executed with great detail, often on a surface such as ivory or vellum.
  • n. A small portrait, picture, or decorative letter on an illuminated manuscript.
  • n. The art of painting miniatures.
  • adj. Being on a small or greatly reduced scale. See Synonyms at small.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A small version of something; a model of reduced scale.
  • n. A small, highly detailed painting, a portrait miniature.
  • n. The art of painting such highly detailed miniature works.
  • n. An illustration in an illuminated manuscript.
  • n. A musical composition which is short in duration.
  • n. A token in a game representing a unit or character.
  • adj. Smaller than normal.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Being on a small scale; much reduced from the reality.
  • n. Originally, a painting in colors such as those in mediæval manuscripts; in modern times, any very small painting, especially a portrait.
  • n. Greatly diminished size or form; reduced scale.
  • n. Lettering in red; rubric distinction.
  • n. A particular feature or trait.
  • transitive v. To represent or depict in a small compass, or on a small scale.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A painting, generally a portrait, of very small dimensions, usually executed in water-colors, but sometimes in oil, on ivory, vellum, or paper of a thick and fine quality.
  • n. Hence Anything represented on a greatly reduced scale.
  • n. A greatly reduced scale, style, or form.
  • n. Red letter; lettering in red lead or vermilion.
  • n. Anything small or on a small scale.
  • On a small scale; much reduced from natural size.
  • To represent or depict on a small scale.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. being on a very small scale
  • n. painting or drawing included in a book (especially in illuminated medieval manuscripts)
  • n. a copy that reproduces a person or thing in greatly reduced size


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Italian miniatura, illumination of manuscripts, small painting, from miniare, to illuminate, from Latin miniāre, to color red, from minium, red lead.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the Italian miniatura (manuscript illumination), from miniare (to illuminate), from the Latin miniāre (to colour red), from minium (red lead).



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  • Hi, michaelt42. I like your use of viz.

    December 5, 2011

  • The miniature edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House this morning (4 December 2011) lasted 45 instead of the usual 60 minutes and contained a report of a remarkable microscopic feat, viz the engraving of a list of names on the surface of a single football boot stud, which may cause you to recall the even smaller scale used in the manufacture of silicon chips. It is believed that miniaturists like Nicholas Hillyard worked with exceedingly fine brushes and executed their work under a hand glass.

    December 4, 2011

  • Surprising etymology: nothing to do with the Latin root for "little, less" found in minus, minor, minimum, minuscule. Rather, it comes from minium "vermilion, cinnabar; red lead", and refers to the use of vermilion to highlight letters in manuscripts (rubrication) and thus to the colouring of marginal pictures in manuscripts.

    May 22, 2009