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min·​i·​a·​ture ˈmi-nē-ə-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce miniature (audio) ˈmi-ni-ˌchu̇r How to pronounce miniature (audio)
: a copy on a much reduced scale
The designer displayed a miniature of the Washington, D.C. Mall.
: something small of its kind
The little boy looked like his father in miniature.
: a painting in an illuminated (see illuminate entry 1 sense 4) book or manuscript
: the art of painting miniatures
The artist excelled in miniature.
: a very small portrait or other painting (as on ivory or metal)
The lady wore a locket containing a miniature of her mother.
ˈmi-ni-ˌchu̇r- How to pronounce miniature (audio)
ˌmi-nē-ə-chə-ˈri-stik How to pronounce miniature (audio)


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: being or represented on a small scale
in miniature
: in a greatly diminished size, form, or scale

Did you know?

How Miniature Came to Mean What It Does

The word miniature is about size, and 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.

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
The jeweled miniature, a copy of Britain’s Imperial State Crown, is part of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, on display at Windsor Castle outside London, where the everyday objects, luxuries and curiosities of royal life in the early 20th century are reproduced at one-twelfth scale. Megan Specia, New York Times, 11 Feb. 2024 The caricature of a 1950s-style suburban house, in miniature, speaks to something in the American identity that equates being a homeowner with having your own space that’s separating you from others. Alena Botros, Fortune, 28 Jan. 2024 If the burning — of homes, of cars, of people — represented a Holocaust in miniature, then Be’eri in its current state resembled nothing so much as a living Holocaust memorial. David Harsanyi, National Review, 25 Jan. 2024 Finally, the Haunted Mansion Parlor boasts new, exclusive merchandise, from miniatures of the venue's distinctive music box and mantle clock to a mug engraved with spooky sea life and a small mirror that flashes images of hitchhiking ghosts., 24 Oct. 2023 Herring is a version in miniature of his stage persona, head tossed back, that otherworldly voice slipping out. Travis M. Andrews, Washington Post, 26 Jan. 2024 Knowing that their family would gather around the living room fireplace, Mr. Pennoyer and Ms. Ridder revived another family tradition, as well: transforming the mantel into a winter scene with miniatures. Tim McKeough, New York Times, 1 Dec. 2023 The locomotive itself was a detailed miniature a full-size human could ride atop. Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Times, 3 Jan. 2024 Probably only five percent of the whole film is in real locations, that being the two medical schools, the church, the forest, and [Lord Alfie Blessington’s] interiors—his house itself was actually a miniature. Charlie Hobbs, Condé Nast Traveler, 12 Dec. 2023
Still recovering from shortages of every supply imaginable, and without the resources required to stage a fashion show for every house, a team of artists and craftsmen created miniature mannequins. Rachel Elspeth Gross, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 Yet such transducers can produce the sound quality and the loudness of the best miniature dynamic speakers. IEEE Spectrum, 11 Feb. 2024 Still, scientists have already designed miniature versions of the Cas12 and Cas 13 enzymes that can fit into the viruses. Amber Dance, Discover Magazine, 2 Feb. 2024 The TikToker strings plastic balls, styrofoam circles and miniature footballs before adding letter stickers to create the phrases. Sabrina Weiss, Peoplemag, 8 Feb. 2024 Bedtime just got a lot more fun with this Light Projector that is projected out of a miniature astronaut. Mia Meltzer, Rolling Stone, 6 Feb. 2024 That’s up there with Shiba Inus (14.6), papillons (14.5), miniature dachshunds and Italian greyhounds (14). Amanda Schupak, CNN, 3 Feb. 2024 Snuffboxes and miniature portraits were often exchanged between lovers and supplicants. Gaile Robinson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 31 Jan. 2024 And promising tech, including AI and organs-on-a-chip—miniature systems that mimic the properties of human tissues and organs—are advancing quickly and helping reduce the number of animals used in studies. Erika Fry, Fortune, 27 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'miniature.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


circa 1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1714, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of miniature was circa 1586

Dictionary Entries Near miniature

Cite this Entry

“Miniature.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: something much smaller than the usual size
especially : a copy on a much reduced scale
: a very small portrait or painting (as on ivory)
: the art of painting miniatures


2 of 2 adjective
: very small : represented on a small scale
collects miniature books


from Italian miniatura "a fancy big letter or small picture used to decorate a page of a book copied by hand," derived from Latin miniare "to color with red pigment"; so called because the first fancy letters on books were done in red to stand out from the black ink of the rest of the page

More from Merriam-Webster on miniature

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