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1751, "decorative design," originally a design in the form of vine tendrils around the borders of a book page, especially a picture page, from French vignette, from Old French diminutive of vigne "vineyard" (see vine). Sense transferred from the border to the picture itself, then (1853) to a type of small photographic portrait with blurred edges very popular mid-19c. Meaning "literary sketch" is first recorded 1880, probably from the photographic sense.