Minuscule or Miniscule

 Tue, 07 May 2024 21:03 UTC

Minuscule or Miniscule
Image: CC BY 4.0 by cybrkyd


We are probably witnessing the evolution of the English language right in front of our very eyes with the mis-spelt word “miniscule”. It certainly crept past me, for one, even though this evolutionary journey has been going on for well over a century. Yes, it has been around in literary works since the 19th century and I’ve likely read past it without fully realising the error. Perhaps similar to those numerous times, for instance, when I’ve read past the word color and not thought twice about it.

Embarrassingly, it is included in the British English spelling dictionary that I maintain.1 Oh fie! The shame! I assure you that I will promptly and aggressively remove it from the next update which is due imminently.

All that said, I don’t feel quite so bad. OED lists 20 publications which feature the misspelling.2 And yes, some of those cited are British publications.

However, the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary does not list a definition for the word “miniscule”.3

Cambridge, on the other hand, does show a result, calling it “not gradable”.4

Winding back a few years, Cambridge’s own Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2008) dismissed it entirely:

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It is small wonder that the entire English speaking world is confused by this, shall we say, minuscule problem. (See what I did there?)

Minuscule or Miniscule: Which is Correct?

In answer to the original question, the correct spelling of the word is Minuscule; MINU, not MINI. The root is French (née Latin).56

From French "minuscule", from Latin "minuscula"

  1. British English spelling dictionary: British-English Language Tools ↩︎

  2. Oxford English Dictionary: Quotations: Miniscule ↩︎

  3. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary: Miniscule ↩︎

  4. Cambridge Dictionary: Miniscule ↩︎

  5. wiktionary: Minuscule - Etymology ↩︎

  6. Online Etymology Dictionary: minuscule ↩︎