Lowercase" src="http://typographydeconstructed.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/lowercase-white.gif" alt="Lowercase" width="190" height="190" />The smaller form of letters in a typeface.
Originally alphabets were written entirely in capital letters, spaced between well-defined upper and lower bounds. When written quickly with a pen, these tended to turn into rounder and much simpler forms, like uncials. It is from these that the first minuscule hands developed, the half-uncials and cursive minuscule, which no longer stay bound between a pair of lines.
These in turn formed the foundations for the Carolingian minuscule script, developed by Alcuin for use in the court of Charlemagne, which quickly spread across Europe. Here for the first time it became common to mix both upper and lower case letters in a single text.
The term "lower case" comes from manual typesetting. Since minuscules were more frequent in text than majuscules, typesetters placed them in the lower and nearer type case, while the case with the majuscules (the "upper case") was above and behind, a longer reach.
The word minuscule is often spelled miniscule, by association with the unrelated word miniature and the prefix mini-. This has traditionally been regarded as a spelling mistake (since minuscule is derived from the word minus), but is now so common that some dictionaries tend to accept it as a nonstandard or variant spelling. However, miniscule is still less likely to be used for lower-case letters.
of a letter : having as its typical form a f g or b n i rather than A F G or B N I
from the compositor's practice of keeping such types in the lower of a pair of type cases
to print or set in lowercase letters