The word ‘miniature’ is a derivative of the Latin word miniare, which literally means to paint with minium or the red lead.
That pigment was used for the decoration of the small pictures in the antique, and medieval manuscripts, that were framed, and sometimes even painted with it..
Usually these pictures were small scaled, that caused the etymological confusion with the minuteness, so that the term ‘miniature’ became common for the minute pictures, especially portrait miniatures, even though actually both term derived from the same definition, and both were using similar techniques.
In Asian traditions, the word ‘miniature’ is properly used for the single-sheet small paintings to be kept in albums, unlike the Western traditions. These include Persian and their Mughal, Ottoman, and other Indian offshots.
Miniature from the Vergilius Romanus, a manuscript of Virgil’s Aenid, early 5th century. One of the oldest preserved illuminated manuscripts. The picture is separated from the rest, with the minium painted frame.
Location: Vatikan, Rome