from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The nail of the thumb.
  • noun Computers An image of a graphic or document that is reduced in size so that it serves as an icon of a larger image or to allow multiple images to be viewed on a screen simultaneously or to be transmitted more rapidly.
  • adjective Of, relating to, or of the size of a thumbnail.
  • adjective Brief; cursory.
  • transitive verb To generate a reduced size image of (a graphic or document).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The fingernail on the thumb.
  • noun A rough sketch (e.g., the size of one's thumbnail).
  • noun A small picture, used as a compact representation of a larger image.
  • verb transitive To describe concisely.

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

  • noun the nail of the thumb


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

thumb + nail. The phrase thumbnail sketch was first attested 1852. Verb sense attested 1930s.



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  • He scratched a match on his thumbnail and watched it burn and tried to blow it out with a long steady breath that just bent the flame over.

    --Raymond Chandler, 1943, The Lady in the Lake, chapter 35

    September 4, 2009

  • There were unnoticeable places where the paint had run down those hard rods, that had never quite got dry, and when George went away on a case or was late coming home she would lie there indenting these little rivers of paint with her thumbnail very gently, to kill time, the way she would once hold rose petals on her tongue and gently bite them, waiting here in the store, the days when he courted.

    --Eudora Welty, 1946, Delta Wedding

    December 24, 2010