AskDefine | Define thumbnail

Dictionary Definition

thumbnail n : the nail of the thumb

User Contributed Dictionary



thumb + nail Thumbnail (image) was first attested 1852.


  1. The fingernail on the thumb.
  2. A rough sketch.
  3. A small picture (e.g. the size of ones thumbnail), used as a compact representation of a larger image.

See also


fingernail on the thumb
rough sketch
small picture
Translations to be checked

External links

Extensive Definition

Thumbnails are reduced-size versions of pictures, used to make it easier to scan and recognize them, serving the same role for images as a normal text index does for words. Visual search engines and image-organizing programs normally use them, as can some modern operating systems or desktop environments, such as Windows XP, KDE, and GNOME.
Note that while automatic thumbnailers reduce large pictures to a small size, the result may not be a quality thumbnail.
Some web designers produce thumbnails by simply reducing the dimensions of a large image using HTML coding, rather than using a smaller copy of the image. In practice the display size of an image in pixels should always correspond to its actual size, in part because one purpose of a thumbnail image on a web page is to reduce download time. The visual quality of browser resizing is also usually less than ideal.
Reducing a significant part of the picture instead of the full frame can allow the use of a smaller thumbnail while maintaining recognizability. For example, when thumbnailing a full-body portrait of a person, it may be better to show the face slightly reduced than an indistinct figure. This has the disadvantage that it misleads viewers about what the image contains, so it is less well suited for searching or a catalogue than for artistic presentations.
In 2002, the court in the US case Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation ruled that it was fair use for Internet search engines to use thumbnail images to help web users to find what they were looking for.


A thumbnail image is usually defined as one having 80 to 200 pixels in the long dimension like a thumb's nail .
The term vignette is sometimes used to describe an image that is smaller than the original, larger than a thumbnail, but no more than 250 pixels in the long dimension.

Thumbnail Sketches

Art directors and graphic designers use the term "thumbnail sketch" to describe a small drawing on paper (usually part of a group) used to explore multiple ideas quickly. Thumbnail sketches are similar to doodles, but may include as much detail as a small sketch.

See also

External links

Free online thumbnail services:
thumbnail in German: Vorschaubild
thumbnail in French: Miniature (informatique)
thumbnail in Korean: 썸네일
thumbnail in Dutch: Miniatuur (computer)
thumbnail in Japanese: サムネイル
thumbnail in Polish: Thumbnail
thumbnail in Swedish: Miniatyrbild
thumbnail in Ukrainian: Мініатюра
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