min·​i·​a·​ture | \ ˈmi-nē-ə-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce miniature (audio) , ˈmi-ni-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce miniature (audio) , ˈmin-yə-, -chər, -ˌtyu̇r, -ˌtu̇r \

Definition of miniature

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a copy on a much reduced scale The designer displayed a miniature of the Washington, D.C. Mall.
b : something small of its kind The little boy looked like his father in miniature.
2 : a painting in an illuminated (see illuminate entry 1 sense 4) book or manuscript
3 : the art of painting miniatures The artist excelled in miniature.
4 : a very small portrait or other painting (as on ivory or metal) The lady wore a locket containing a miniature of her mother.
in miniature
: in a greatly diminished size, form, or scale



Definition of miniature (Entry 2 of 2)

: being or represented on a small scale

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Other Words from miniature


miniaturist \ ˈmi-​nē-​ə-​ˌchu̇r-​ist , ˈmi-​ni-​ˌchu̇r-​ How to pronounce miniaturist (audio) , -​chər-​ , -​ˌtyu̇r-​ , -​ˌtu̇r-​ \ noun
miniaturistic \ ˌmi-​nē-​ə-​chə-​ˈri-​stik How to pronounce miniaturistic (audio) , ˌmi-​ni-​ , ˌmin-​yə-​ , -​ˌtyu̇-​ , -​ˌtu̇-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for miniature


small, little, diminutive, minute, tiny, miniature mean noticeably below average in size. small and little are often interchangeable, but small applies more to relative size determined by capacity, value, number. a relatively small backyard little is more absolute in implication often carrying the idea of petiteness, pettiness, insignificance, or immaturity. your pathetic little smile diminutive implies abnormal smallness. diminutive bonsai plants minute implies extreme smallness. a minute amount of caffeine in the soda tiny is an informal equivalent to minute. tiny cracks formed in the painting miniature applies to an exactly proportioned reproduction on a very small scale. a dollhouse with miniature furnishings

How Miniature Came to Mean What It Does

The word miniature is about size, specifically, small size. But its Latin ancestor concerned not size, but color.

In the era before the invention of the printing press, anything printed was printed by hand: someone pressed a pigmented point to a surface and left marks. People used black pigment mostly, but sometimes they used red, especially for titles, large initial letters, and decorative drawings. The Latin name for the red coloring—which was either cinnabar or red lead—was minium, and the corresponding verb meaning "to color with minium" was miniare.

In early Italian, the association of decorative drawings with miniare was so strong that the meaning of miniare was broadened until it simply meant "to decorate a manuscript." A noun form of the word, miniatura, was used to refer to the art of illuminating—that is, of adding illustrations to—a manuscript, regardless of the colors used. Since the illuminations in manuscripts (as the illustrations themselves are called) were small by comparison with most other paintings, miniatura came to refer not only to a manuscript illumination but to any small portrait or painting, and eventually to anything very small. English speakers had adopted the word as miniature by the 16th century.

Examples of miniature in a Sentence

Noun a diorama filled with miniatures of town buildings as they looked in the 19th century Adjective a collection of miniature books The little boy looks like a miniature version of his father.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Her Instagram photo series, #OurGreatIndoors, has inspired other homebound travel buffs to imagine vistas of their own in miniature. CBS News, "This week on "Sunday Morning" (June 14)," 11 June 2020 If the protests have demanded neighborhoods made safe through social provision, rather than police presence, then these actions have functioned as a real-time response in miniature. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "Small Acts of Care in a Failed State," 10 June 2020 For now, in the midst of the confusion, here is a first draft of history in miniature, in minutes - an oral history of 6:30 to 7:18 p.m. on June 1, 2020. Anchorage Daily News, "An oral history of 48 surreal, violent, biblical minutes in Washington," 4 June 2020 And those miniature stenciled paintings are some of the only ones of their kind in the world, except for a tiny human figure stenciled on a cave wall in Indonesia and one in a rock shelter in New South Wales, Australia. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Rare miniature rock art found in Australia," 2 June 2020 Many of these conflicts play out in miniature on the Chuck Rhoades side of the show. Sean T. Collins, New York Times, "Season 5, Episode 3: ‘Beg, Bribe, Bully’," 17 May 2020 And scaling a miniature wheel required its own genius. Cody Cassidy, Wired, "Who Invented the Wheel? And How Did They Do It?," 6 May 2020 Her miniature rooms tend toward cottage-style décor: white Shaker kitchen cabinets with brass... Rachel Wolfe, WSJ, "How Newfangled Dollhouses Offer Children Escape Right Now," 2 May 2020 According to Talermo, the animal shelter was able to identify her 5-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, Jackson, through his microchip. Claudia Harmata,, "Stolen San Francisco Dog Found at L.A. Shelter After Owner Spent Thousands on Airplane Banner," 21 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The fast-food chain just added $1 miniature versions of their milkshakes to their menu for a limited time. Mary Honkus,, "$1 Mini Milkshakes Are Now Available at Burger King for a Limited Time," 9 July 2020 After the release of the Genesis Mini and the recent announcement of the Game Gear Mini, Sega doesn't show any signs of slowing down its plans for miniature retro hardware releases. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Sega’s next retro hardware is a 1/6th-scale multi-game arcade cabinet," 7 July 2020 Newer approaches use genetic material such as RNA or DNA to turn the body’s own cells into miniature vaccine factories. Washington Post, "Elegant but unproven, RNA experiments leap to the front in coronavirus vaccine race. Will they work?," 5 July 2020 This Lodge miniature skillet, normally $13.52, is currently up for grabs for just $4.99 at Amazon. Nicole Briese, USA TODAY, "The 5 best Amazon deals you can get this weekend," 4 July 2020 On a curve that led to the tiny street of Holly Springs Drive, a resident there may have placed close to 100 miniature American flags that lined the road leading to Tall Pines Drive. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Festive bite-size parades hit the city streets to celebrate America’s birthday," 4 July 2020 Whereas: In the best season yet for the best prequel ever, a minor dispute over a construction project in Tucumcari spiraled patiently into a miniature epic of lies and betrayal. Kristen Baldwin,, "The best TV shows of 2020… so far," 1 July 2020 Excellent photographs by David Fenton complement the prose throughout the 112-page book and help the reader comprehend the complicated process of caring for intricate, miniature representations of nature. Sally Peterson, oregonlive, "‘The Little Book of Bonsai’: Peaceful plants that are better than succulents," 29 June 2020 Stamp collectors, in particular, prize Federal Duck Stamps as miniature works of art. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Latest edition of federal duck stamp available for purchase," 28 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'miniature.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of miniature


circa 1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1714, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for miniature


Italian miniatura art of illuminating a manuscript, from Medieval Latin, from Latin miniatus, past participle of miniare to color with minium, from minium red lead

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Time Traveler for miniature

Time Traveler

The first known use of miniature was circa 1586

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Statistics for miniature

Last Updated

17 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Miniature.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for miniature


How to pronounce miniature (audio) How to pronounce miniature (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of miniature

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a very small sculpture, portrait, or painting



English Language Learners Definition of miniature (Entry 2 of 2)

: very small


min·​i·​a·​ture | \ ˈmi-nē-ə-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce miniature (audio) , ˈmi-ni-ˌchu̇r \

Kids Definition of miniature

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a copy of something that is much smaller than the original I made a miniature of the Eiffel Tower.
2 : a very small portrait or painting



Kids Definition of miniature (Entry 2 of 2)

: very small miniature books a miniature breed of dogs

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