minuscular, adj.
/min"euh skyoohl', mi nus"kyoohl/, adj.
1. very small.
2. (of letters or writing) small; not capital.
3. written in such letters (opposed to majuscule).
4. a minuscule letter.
5. a small cursive script developed in the 7th century A.D. from the uncial, which it afterward superseded.
[1695-1705; < L minusculus smallish. See MINUS, -CULE1]
Usage. MINUSCULE, from Latin minus meaning "less," has frequently come to be spelled MINISCULE, perhaps under the influence of the prefix mini- in the sense "of a small size." 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.

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Lowercase letters in calligraphy, in contrast to majuscule, or uppercase letters.

Unlike majuscules, minuscules are not fully contained between two real or hypothetical lines; their stems can go above or below the line. Developed by Alcuin in the 8th century, it allowed the division of writing into sentences and paragraphs by beginning sentences with capital letters and ending them with periods. The script was originally rounded, but gradually the strokes became heavier until it became what is now known as Gothic or black letter script.

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 in calligraphy, lowercase letters in most alphabets, in contrast to majuscule (uppercase or capital) letters. Minuscule letters cannot be fully contained between two real or imaginary parallel lines, since they have ascending stems (ascenders) on the letters b, d, f, h, k, and l, and descenders on g, j, p, and q.

       Carolingian minuscule was the first such style to emerge with consistent ascenders and descenders. This clear and manageable alphabet was perfected in the last quarter of the 8th century under the direction of Alcuin of York (England) and the monks at Aachen (Germany) and at the Abbey of St. Martin at Tours (France). Charlemagne's many educational and ecclesiastical reforms necessitated the production of new manuscripts to be distributed throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Because Carolingian minuscule was relatively easy to read and write, it served this need admirably.

      Carolingian letters were originally round and widely spaced, but over time they became laterally condensed and took on Gothic characteristics. Eventually Carolingian minuscule was displaced by Gothic, or black letter, minuscule script.

Robert Williams

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Universalium. 2010.

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