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 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In a way, Benicia is California in miniature, a town with layers of history, and a place that was willing to change with the times. Carl Nolte, San Francisco Chronicle, "Fame and glory? Benicia's been there, done that and it's doing just fine," 23 Apr. 2021 Before the Covid-19 pandemic drastically altered the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying timeframe, Concacaf essentially proposed the Super League in miniature as its qualifying format. Ian Nicholas Quillen, Forbes, "Proposed European Super League Is Not A Closed System Like Major League Soccer. It’s Worse," 19 Apr. 2021 The black panel extending across the nose is bedecked with an array of the marque’s official star logo in miniature. Viju Mathew, Robb Report, "Mercedes-Benz’s Hotly Anticipated All-Electric EQS Sedan Is Finally Here," 15 Apr. 2021 That poignant sketch gives the reader not only this gently radiant book in miniature, but much of its author’s career. Boyd Tonkin, WSJ, "‘Stories With Pictures’ Review: Windows on Dreamland," 12 Mar. 2021 Once, a lack of opposition votes was a scandal in miniature. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "No One’s Buying the Republicans’ Deficit Fearmongering Anymore," 22 Feb. 2021 But more than the planet or its rings, Cassini studied Saturn’s icy moons—essentially an entire planetary system in miniature, each new world a microcosm of unearthly geology. Lee Billings, Scientific American, "Cassini’s “Grand Finale” Will Be a Blaze of Glory," 14 Sep. 2017 The Mount Rushmore miniature stood 4 feet (1.3 meters) and depicted Trump alongside former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Stephen Groves, Star Tribune, "SD governor gave Trump bust with face on Mount Rushmore," 21 Jan. 2021 Bonsai is an artform that seeks to recreate a natural scene in miniature. Briana Miller, oregonlive, "Art shows a bit more intense and cerebral this winter in Portland," 12 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The Bend High School vaccine clinic, located in the school’s second gym, looked like a miniature version of the large vaccine clinic at the Deschutes County fairgrounds. Jackson Hogan, oregonlive, "Anti-vaccine protesters heckle Oregon high school kids as they get COVID-19 doses," 30 Apr. 2021 Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg presented his department’s budget to lawmakers Thursday as a miniature version of the administration’s mammoth infrastructure plan, with new money for transit, rail and racial justice. Washington Post, "Buttigieg casts proposed transportation budget as down payment on infrastructure," 15 Apr. 2021 The island could have ended up like a miniature version of Martha’s Vineyard—the upscale vacation destination that sits just five kilometers to the north. James Freitas, Smithsonian Magazine, "This Uninhabited Island Off of Massachusetts Is Littered With Bombs," 16 Mar. 2021 But the best smartwatches are a lot more than a miniature version of your phone’s notification screen. Dave Johnson, Forbes, "The 11 Best Smartwatches To Keep You Fit And Connected (And Maybe Tell The Time)," 11 Mar. 2021 The researchers achieved this sensitivity using a detector called a torsion pendulum, which looks like a miniature version of a mobile hanging above a child’s crib. Ben Brubaker, Scientific American, "Physicists Measure the Gravitational Force between the Smallest Masses Yet," 10 Mar. 2021 The supermarket has fallen, and now the miniature version is toppling, too. New York Times, "The Grocery Store of the Mind," 2 Mar. 2021 Ripping shingles, tar paper and timbers from the roofs of houses, uprooting trees and demoralizing traffic, a miniature tornado swept through the city at midnight last night. Merrie Monteagudo, San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: Tornados strike region 95 years ago," 6 Apr. 2021 Sometimes children drifted out the door, crawling beside dump trucks or steering shopping carts of plastic produce, and were surprised to find the mothers hiding, towering over miniature chairs. Clare Sestanovich, The New Yorker, "Separation," 5 Apr. 2021

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

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Miniature.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for miniature



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

Comments on miniature

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