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

  • n. The nail of the thumb.
  • n. Computer Science A reduced image of a graphic or document page, used in order to view multiple images on a screen simultaneously or to download such images more rapidly.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or of the size of a thumbnail.
  • adj. Brief; cursory: a thumbnail biography.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

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

  • n. 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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  • 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

  • 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