- Minuscule means very small.
- Miniscule is a newer spelling, probably derived from the prefix mini-.
- Many feel that miniscule is a misspelling, but it occurs so frequently that it appears as a variant spelling in some dictionaries.
When talking about things that are small, people use the word mini. For example, a small, short skirt is a miniskirt. A minirecession is a recession with a lesser impact than a full recession. But minus also means less. How confusing! Which is correct—minuscule or miniscule?
First, let’s look for a definition. One dictionary defines minuscule as very small. Therefore, you can rest assured that minuscule is a legitimate spelling. Here are a few examples in print:
We all tell little lies about ourselves, our past, our presents. We think some of them are minuscule, unimportant, and others, large and incriminating. ━Sarah McCoy, The Baker’s Daughter
Those levels, however, are minuscule compared to uranium concentrations found in uranium ore, according to scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey. ━Arizona Daily Sun
What about miniscule? If you search for miniscule on Dictionary.com, you will find it defined as minuscule. According to this source, it’s an alternative spelling. However, the usage note cautions: “Although this newer spelling is criticized by many, it occurs with such frequency in edited writing that some consider it a variant spelling rather than a misspelling.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, the first instance of miniscule appeared at the end of the nineteenth century. However, it didn’t become popular “in edited prose” until the 1940s. Let’s look and see how writers use miniscule:
The facts show that miniscule insect fragments were discovered in the butter. . . ━Neal D. Fortin, Food Regulation: Law, Science, Policy, and Practice
“Madonna is one of a miniscule number of super-artists whose influence and career transcend music,” said Janice Min, president and chief creative officer of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group. ━NewsTalk.com
Primary English: Extending Knowledge in Practice reports that dictionaries began accepting miniscule during the later years of the twentieth century. It isn’t nearly as popular as minuscule, and some people just don’t like it. How about you? Will you use minuscule or miniscule?