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

Other Words from miniature


miniaturist \ ˈmi-​nē-​ə-​ˌchu̇r-​ist , ˈmi-​ni-​ˌchu̇r-​ How to pronounce miniature (audio) , -​chər-​ , -​ˌtyu̇r-​ , -​ˌtu̇r-​ \ noun
miniaturistic \ ˌmi-​nē-​ə-​chə-​ˈri-​stik How to pronounce miniature (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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun One looks like a credit card that has both a touchscreen keypad and a miniature, Kindle-style electronic ink display. Gilad Edelman, Wired, 28 Mar. 2022 The first Faberge egg contained a diamond miniature of the crown and a tiny ruby egg. CNN, 24 Mar. 2022 Portraits have always been a medium of intimate communication; Henry VIII wooed Anne Boleyn by sending her a miniature of himself. Cate Mcquaid,, 8 Feb. 2022 In the tremendous and often treacherous East Greenland landscape, even a warship becomes a fragile miniature. Marguerite Holloway, The New Yorker, 31 Aug. 2021 For Wednesday’s performance, PostClassical shrunk these landscapes down to a set of snow-globes, offering a suite of Mahler in miniature — a program of various pieces arranged for 14-piece chamber ensemble. Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2022 Reproduced in precise detail is Cowboys & Amoebas and three other fantastical paintings in miniature. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 6 Apr. 2022 Yet this exquisite miniature of a novel somehow defies the gravitational pull of its grim subject to hover in a quotidian, luminous present. Anna Mundow, WSJ, 26 Nov. 2021 With videotapes of his lessons at the ready, Hung worked with her son from the couch, the family's black miniature poodle Mocha nestled in her lap to listen. Domenica Bongiovanni, The Indianapolis Star, 28 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective At the start of his career, Jones built miniature models and worked in the optical effects unit for Star Wars and served as a consultant on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Apr. 2022 Now scientists have turned to human kidney organoids, miniature models derived from human stem cells, to determine what marks the point of no return separating reversible and permanent damage. Elizabeth Cooney, STAT, 5 Mar. 2022 Buy and decorate miniature trees for different areas of your house. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 30 Nov. 2021 The surfaces in her home are layered with an array of various garlands, Christmas villages, overflowing florals, and miniature trees in a variety of sizes. Molly Reid Sinnett, Better Homes & Gardens, 20 Oct. 2021 Well, miniature replicas of the garden gnomes that appeared on the album sleeve. Eamonn Forde, Forbes, 14 June 2021 One of the deluxe editions of the All Things Must Pass reissue includes a 94-page scrapbook (with photos, Harrison diary entries, and more) as well as miniature figurine replicas of Harrison and the record’s iconic cover creatures. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 10 June 2021 Gianni Clifford, 35, has crafted miniature replicas of more than a dozen of the Irish capitals’ pubs so far, constructed entirely from plastic blocks and with painstaking detail. Patrick Reevell, ABC News, 17 Mar. 2021 Based in Johor, Malaysia, Lim creates miniature replicas of the places that are important to her. Megan Embrey, House Beautiful, 10 Dec. 2020 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near miniature



miniature golf

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Statistics for miniature

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Miniature.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for miniature


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

More from Merriam-Webster on miniature

Nglish: Translation of miniature for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of miniature for Arabic Speakers


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