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
Thank you for a marvelous vignette on the importance of art and the written
  word to the continued understanding of culture.
The following vignette gives one a sense of missed opportunity.
Finally, you can add a vignette effect, color correct your photos and add
  different kinds of borders.
The only implausible note in this vignette is the cordiality with which it ends.
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