Media Studies


  • noun a very small illustration, used e.g. to decorate a title page, a bibliographical page or the last page of a book
  • noun a halftone illustration which fades into the background at the edges

Origin & History of “vignette”

A vignette is etymologically a picture with a border of ‘vine’ tendrils, leaves, etc round it. The word comes from Old French vignette, a diminutive form of vigne ‘vine’ (source of English vine and related to English wine). It was originally applied to decorations in medieval manuscripts, but it was then transferred to the border around pictures, and finally to the pictures themselves. The conscious link with ‘vines’ now became broken, and in the 19th century the term moved on to a ‘head-and-shoulders photograph’ and (metaphorically) a ‘short verbal description’.