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[thuhm-neyl] /ˈθʌmˌneɪl/
the nail of the thumb.
anything quite small or brief, as a small drawing or short essay.
Printing. a small, rough dummy.
Also called porkchop. Journalism, Printing. a half-column portrait in a newspaper.
quite small or brief; concise:
a thumbnail description of Corsica.
verb (used with object)
to make a thumbnail sketch or description of.
Origin of thumbnail
First recorded in 1595-1605; thumb + nail Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for thumbnail
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • From the thumbnail sketch to the many variations of a conceptual scheme, one eliminating the other, many decisions are arrived at.

  • My thumbnail had lifted a tiny circle no larger than the head of a pin.

    Highways in Hiding George Oliver Smith
  • The large blade of my knife being so hard to open placed me in constant risk of breaking my thumbnail.

  • He often painted with a sponge and used his thumbnail to "tear up a sea."

  • A little after one P.M. one of my men looked in with several Indians and saw several small lights about as large as the thumbnail.

    La Ronge Journal, 1823 George Nelson
  • She made a piece of gold as big as your thumbnail before my very eyes.

    Jewel Mysteries Max Pemberton
  • Its thumbnail sketches, if somewhat more subdued and less elaborate, are not less full of character.

  • There was a thumbnail mirror here which would bring an answer.

    Brigands of the Moon Ray Cummings
  • The thumbnail image is approximately natural size under the same conditions.

British Dictionary definitions for thumbnail


the nail of the thumb
(modifier) concise and brief: a thumbnail sketch
(computing) a small image which can be expanded
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for thumbnail

c.1600, from thumb (n.) + nail (n.). Meaning "drawing or sketch of a small size" (though usually not lierally the size of a thumbnail) is from 1852.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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