I love learning things through my kids’ school! A week or two ago, my daughter came out with her vocabulary book in hand to ask if I knew about the history of the word vignette. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this before, but it’s a fun progression!
So back in the day, book pages that contained pictures were often decorated with a border–and one of the most popular images to use for a border was a vine. (French vigne.) By 1751, this vine border had become known as a vignette, which is just a diminutive of the French. But over the years, the word began to be used for the picture on the page, not just the border. By 1853, vignette was used for a type of small photographic portrait.
Toward the end of the 19th century, this idea of a small image or sketch expanded into the literary world and began to be used for a short work of writing too–which is the meaning I’m most familiar with. I had no idea it had come originally from a vine used as a decorative border!

Do you have any books in your house with a vignette border on any pages?
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