1586 (n.) "a reduced image," from It. miniatura "manuscript illumination or small picture," from pp. of miniare "to illuminate a manuscript," from L. miniare "to paint red," from minium "red lead," used in ancient times to make red ink. Extended sense of "small" (adj.) is first attested 1714, because pictures in medieval manuscripts were small, infl. by L. min-, root expressing smallness (minor, minimus, minutus, etc.).