a decorative design or small illustration used on the title page of a book or at the beginning or end of a chapter.
an engraving, drawing, photograph, or the like that is shaded off gradually at the edges so as to leave no definite line at the border.
a decorative design representing branches, leaves, grapes, or the like, as in a manuscript.
any small, pleasing picture or view.
a small, graceful literary sketch.
verb (used with object), vignetted, vignetting.
Photography. to finish (a picture, photograph, etc.) in the manner of a vignette.

1745–55; < French: literally, little vine (see vine, -ette); so called from vinelike decorations in early books

vignettist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
vignette (vɪˈnjɛt)
1.  a small illustration placed at the beginning or end of a book or chapter
2.  a short graceful literary essay or sketch
3.  a photograph, drawing, etc, with edges that are shaded off
4.  architect a carved ornamentation that has a design based upon tendrils, leaves, etc
5.  any small endearing scene, view, picture, etc
6.  to finish (a photograph, picture, etc) with a fading border in the form of a vignette
7.  a.  to decorate with vignettes
 b.  to portray in or as in a vignette
[C18: from French, literally: little vine, from vignevine; with reference to the vine motif frequently used in embellishments to a text]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1751, "decorative design," originally a design in the form of vine tendrils around the borders of a book page, especially a picture page, from Fr. vignette, from O.Fr., dim. 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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
New this month: garden accents arranged in idea-filled vignettes.
All four vignettes have the sense of seeming to end before they should.
But he wrote about that too, in poignant, crystalline vignettes about his
  upbringing and travels.
Get ideas for outdoor dining pavilions from detailed vignettes.
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