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In language structure, a diminutive,[1] or diminutive form, is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment.[2] It is the opposite of an augmentative.

While many languages apply the grammatical diminutive to nouns, a few also use it for adjectives and even other parts of speech.

Diminutives are often used for the purpose of expressing affection (see nickname and hypocoristic). In many languages, the meaning of diminution can be translated "tiny" or "wee", and diminutives are used frequently when speaking to small children; adult people sometimes use diminutives when they express extreme tenderness and intimacy by behaving and talking like children. (See Apocopation).

In some languages, diminutives are formed in a regular way by adding affixes to nouns and proper names; in English the alteration of meaning is often conveyed through clipping, either alone or combined with an affix.[1] English diminutives tend to be shorter and more colloquial than the basic form of the word; diminutives formed by adding affixes in other languages are often longer and not necessarily colloquial.

In many languages, formation of diminutives by adding suffixes is a regular part of the language.[2] All nouns, not just proper nouns can be diminuted. The word "diminutive" is used in a narrower and less vague sense here than when referring to English. The basic meaning of diminution in these languages is "smallness of the object named"; endearment, intimacy, etc. is secondary and dependent on context. For example, the name of one the last Roman emperors of the western part of the Roman Empire—Romulus Augustus—was diminuted to Romulus Augustulus (little Augustus) to emphasise the contrast between the grandness of the name and political insignificance of its bearer; in this case the connotation of diminution is derogatory, not endearing.Template:Fact


Balto-Slavic languages




Lithuanian is known for its array of diminutive forms. Diminutives are generally constructed with suffixes applied to the noun stem. By far, the most common are those with -elis/-elė or -ėlis/-ėlė. Others include: -ukis/-ukė, -ulis/-ulė, -užis/-užė, -utis/-utė, -ytis/-ytė, etc. Suffixes may also be compounded, e.g.: -užis + -ėlis → -užėlis. In addition to denoting small size and/or endearment, they may also function as amplificatives (augmentatives), pejoratives (deterioratives), and to give special meanings, depending on context.[3] Lithuanian diminutives are especially prevalent in poetic language, such as folk songs. Examples:

  • ąžuolas (oak) → ąžuolėlis, ąžuoliukas
  • brolis (brother) → brolelis, broliukas, brolytis, brolužis, brolužėlis, brolutytis, broliukėlis, etc.
  • klevas (maple) → klevelis, klevukas, klevutis
  • pakalnė (slope) → pakalnutė (Lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria)
  • saulė (sun) → saulelė, saulytė, saulutė, saulužė, saulužėlė, etc.
  • svogūnas (onion) → svogūnėlis (bulb)
  • vadovas (leader) → vadovėlis (textbook, manual)

Slavic languages


See also: Bulgarian language#Diminutives and Augmentatives

Bulgarian has an extended diminutive system.

Masculine nouns have a double diminutive form. The first suffix that can be added is -че, (-che). At this points the noun has become neuter, because of the -e ending. The -нце, (-ntse) suffix can further extend the diminutive (It is still neuter, again due to the -e ending). A few examples:

  • kufar → kufarche → kufarchentse (a suitcase)
  • nozh → nozhche → nozhchentse (a knife)
  • stol → stolche → stolchentse (a chair)

Feminine nouns can have up to three different, independent forms (though some of them are used only in colloquial speech):

  • zhena → zhenica → zhenichka (a woman)
  • riba → ribka → ribchitsa (a fish)
  • saksiya → saksiyka → saksiychitsa (a flowerpot)
  • glava → glаvitsa → glavichka (a head)

Note, that the suffixes can be any of -ка (-ka), -чка (-chka), and -ца (-tsa).

Neuter nouns can have only one diminutive suffix -ntse.

  • dete → detentse (a child)
  • prase → prasentse (a pig)


Croatian uses suffixes -ić, -čić for diminutives of masculine nouns, -ica for feminine nouns and names, and -ce, -ašce for neuter nouns.


  • žaba (frog) → žabica
  • lopta (ball) → loptica
  • patka (duck) → patkica
  • Ana (Anne) → Anica


  • konj (horse) → konjić
  • sin (son) → sinčić
  • nos (nose) → nosić


  • pero (feather) → perce
  • sunce (sun) → sunašce
  • jezero (lake) → jezerce


In Czech diminutives are formed by suffixes, as in other Slavic languages. Common endings include -ka, -ko, -ek, -ík, -inka, -enka, -ečka, -ička, -ul-, -unka, -íček, -ínek etc. The choice of suffix may depend on the noun's gender as well as the degree of smallness/affection that the speaker wishes to convey.

Czech diminutives can express smallness, affection, and familiarity. Hence, "Julka" may well mean "our", "cute", "little" or "beloved" Julia. Diminutives can be diminished further by adding another suffix. E.g.: "Júlie" (Julia) → "Julka" (little Julia) → "Júlinka" (very little Julia).

Every noun has a grammatically-correct diminutive form, regardless of the sense it makes. This is sometimes used for comic effect, for example diminuting the word "obr" (giant) to "obřík" (little giant).

Some examples. Note the various stem mutations due to palatalization, vowel shortening or vowel lengthening:

/-ka/ (feminine noun forms)

  • táta (dad) → taťka (little/cute/beloved dad = daddy), Anna → Anka, televize (TV set) → televizka, hora (mountain) → hůrka (little/cute/beloved mountain = a big hill), noha (leg, foot) → nožka

/-ko/ (neuter noun forms)

  • rádio → rádijko, víno (wine) → vínko, triko (T-shirt) → tričko, pero (feather) → pírko, oko (eye) → očko

/-ek/ (masculine noun forms)

  • dům (house) → domek, stůl (table) → stolek, schod (stair/step) → schůdek, prostor (space) → prostůrek, strom (tree) → stromek


  • Tom (Tom) → Tomík (little/cute/beloved Tom = Tommy), pokoj (room) → pokojík, kůl (stake/pole) → kolík, rum (rum) → rumík, koš (basket) → košík


In Polish diminutives can be formed of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and some other parts of speech. They literally signify physical smallness or lack of maturity, but usually convey attitude, in most cases affection. In some contexts, they may be condescending or ironic.

For adjectives and adverbs, diminutives in Polish are grammatically separate from comparative forms.

There are multiple affixes used to create the diminutive. Some of them are -ka, -czka, -śka, -szka, -cia, -sia, -unia, -enka, -lka for feminine nouns and -ek, -yk, -ciek, -czek, -czyk, -szek, -uń, -uś, -eńki, -lki for masculine words, and -czko, -ko for neuter nouns, among others.

The diminutive suffixes may be stacked to create forms going even further, for example, malusieńki is considered even smaller than malusi or maleńki. Similarly, koteczek (little kitty) is derived from kotek (kitty), which is itself derived from kot (cat). Note that in this case, the suffix -ek is used twice, but changes to ecz once due to palatalization.

In many cases, the possibilities for creation of diminutives are seemingly endless and leave place to create many neologisms. Some examples of common diminutives:


  • żaba (frog) → żabcia, żabusia, żabeńka, żabuleńka, żabeczka, żabunia, żabka
  • córka (daughter) → córeczka, córunia, córcia
  • piłka (ball) → piłeczka
  • kaczka (duck) → kaczuszka, kaczątko
  • Katarzyna (Katherine) → Kasia, Kaśka, Kasienka, Kasiunia, Kasiulka
  • Anna (Anna) → Ania, Anka, Andzia, Anusia, Anuśka, Aneczka, Anulka, Anuleczka
  • Małgorzata (Margaret) → Małgośka, Małgosia, Gosia, Gośka, Gosieńka, Gosiunia


  • chłopak (boy) → chłopczyk, chłopaczek
  • syn (son) → synek, syneczek, synulek, synciu
  • Grzegorz (Gregory) → Grześ, Grzesiek, Grzesio, Grzesiu
  • Piotr (Peter) → Piotrek, Piotruś, Piotrusiek, Pietruszka
  • Tomasz (Thomas) → Tomek, Tomuś, Tomcio, Tomeczek
  • ptak (bird) → ptaszek, ptaszeczek, ptaś, ptasiątko


  • pióro (feather) → piórko, pióreczko
  • serce (heart) → serduszko, serdeńko
  • mleko (milk) → mleczko
  • światło (light) → światełko
  • słońce (sun) → słoneczko, słonko


  • kwiaty (flowers) → kwiatki, kwiatuszki, kwiateczki


  • mały (small) (masculine) → maleńki, malusi, malutki, maluśki, malusieńki
  • mała (small) (feminine) → maleńka, malusia, malutka, maluśka, malusieńka
  • zielony (green) (masculine) → zieloniutki
  • zielonkawy (greenish) (masculine) → zieloniutkawy
  • miękkie (soft) (neuter) → mięciutkie


  • szybko (fast) → szybciutko, szybciuteńko, szybciusieńko
  • szybciej (faster) → szybciusiej
  • fajnie → fajniusio
  • super → supcio


  • płakać (to weep) → płakuniać, płakusiać


Russian has a wide variety of diminutive forms for names, to the point that for non-Russian speakers it can be difficult to connect a nickname to the original. Diminutive forms for nouns are usually distinguished with -ik, -ok (-yok) (masculine gender), -chk-, -shk-, -on’k- or -en’k- suffixes. For example, "voda" (вода;, "water") becomes "vodichka" (водичка, "little water"), "kot" (кот, "male cat") becomes "kotik" (котик), "koshka" (кошка, "female cat") becomes "koshechka" (кошечка), "solntse" (солнце, "sun", neuter) becomes "solnyshko" (солнышко). Often there are many diminutive forms: "mama" (мама, "mum") becomes "mamochka" (мамочка), "mamen’ka" (маменька), etc.

A number of diminutives have a separate and sometimes metaphoric meaning; the word "vodka" ("водка") literally means "little water", and "limonka" ("лимонка", "little lemon") can signify a pear or a hand grenade.

Adjectives and adverbs can also have diminutive forms with suffix -en’k-: "siniy" (синий, "blue") becomes "sinen’kiy" (синенький), "bystro" (быстро, "quickly") becomes "bystren’ko" (быстренько). Some diminutives of proper names, among many others:


  • Anastasia → Nastia (as in Nastia Liukin), Nastenka
  • Anya → An’ka, Anichka, Anushka
  • Irina → Ira, Irka, Irochka
  • Natalya → Natasha, Natashka, Natashechka
  • Tatyana → Tanya, Tan’ka, Tanechka
  • Yekaterina → Katya, Katyusha, Katenka, Kat’ka, Katyachka
  • Yevgeniya → Zhenya, Zhen’ka, Zhenyachka


  • Aleksander → Sasha, Sashka, Sahenk’ka, Sashechka, Shura, Shurik
  • Aleksey → Alyosha (as in Alyosha Popovich), Lyosha, Alyoshka, Lyoshka
  • Andrei → Andryusha, Andryushka, Andryushechka
  • Dmitriy → Dima, Mitya, Dimka, Dimushka, Dimechka, Mityushka, Mityenka
  • Mikhail → Misha, Mishka, Mishen’ka, Mishechka
  • Pyotr → Petya, Pet’ka
  • Sergey → Seryozha, Seryozhka
  • Vladimir → Volodya, Vova, Vovka

Celtic languages


The Irish language has a number of diminutives.

The most common diminutives are

  • -(e)og, feminine;
  • -an/in, masculine.

Scottish Gaelic

In Scottish Gaelic diminutives are used much more frequently than in English. This is a feature that it shares with Scots language, and may have influenced, the suffixes "-ag" and "-ock" in that language.

The most common diminutives are

  • -(e)ag, feminine: Mor ("Sarah") → Morag, Loch Nis (Loch Ness) → Niseag ("Nessie")
  • -(e)an, masculine: lochlochan, bodach (old man) → bodachan (mannikin)

Germanic languages


In Afrikaans, the diminutive is formed by adding one of the suffixes -ie, -pie, -kie, -'tjie, -tjie, -jie, -etjie to the word, depending on the latter's phonology (some exceptions exist to these rules):

  • -ie for words ending in -f, -g, -k, -p or -s: neef → nefie (nephew), lag → laggie (laugh), skaap → skapie (sheep)
  • -pie for words ending in -m: boom (tree) → boompie
  • -kie for words ending in -ing: koning (king) → koninkie
  • -′tjie for words ending in -i, -o, or -u (usually borrowed from other languages): impi → impi′tjie
  • -jie for words ending in -d or -t: hoed → hoedjie (hat)
  • -etjie for CVC words ending in -b, -l, -m, -n or -r: bal → balletjie (ball), kam → kammetjie (comb), kar → karretjie (car)
  • -tjie for most other words: soen → soentjie (kiss), koei → koeitjie (cow), appel → appeltjie (apple)

Diminutives of words that are themselves diminutives are used, for example baadjietjie (little jacket). Such constructions do not appear in Dutch.

Afrikaans has almost identical usage and grammar for diminutive words as Dutch, the language Afrikaans was derived from. (detailed below) The most remarkable differences in Dutch as compared to Afrikaans is that suffixes end with -e (e.g. beetje, a [little] bit, mandje, basket) as compared to -ie in Afrikaans (e.g. bietjie, mandjie—same meanings respectively), and that in Dutch language also adjectives and adverbs can be conjugated as diminutives as if they where nouns. Diminutives are widely used in both languages, but much more so in the Afrikaans language.

In some cases the diminutive in Afrikaans is the most commonly used, or even only form of the word: bietjie, mandjie, and boontjie (bean). In other cases the diminutive may be used figuratively rather than literally to imply affection, camaraderie, euphemism, sarcasm, or disdain, depending on context.


In Dutch, the diminutive is formed by adding one of the suffixes -je, -tje, -pje, -etje, -kje to the noun in question. Often the suffixes -ke, -eke, -ske, -ie, -kje are used in different dialects instead of the former mentioned, but those are not used in official spelling.

In Dutch, in addition to nouns, diminutive forms of adjectives and adverbs may also be created:

  • adjective: groen (green) → groentje (lit. "little green" meaning rookie)
  • adverbs: groen (green) → groentjes (lit. "littly green" meaning greenish), net (neat) → netjes, zacht (soft) → zachtjes

Some nouns have two different diminutives, each with a different meaning:

  • bloem (blostem) → bloempje (lit. "small blostem")
  • bloem (blostem) → bloemetje (lit. "little blostem" meaning bouquet)

A few words also exist solely in a diminutive form, e.g. zeepaardje ("seahorse") and sneeuwklokje ("snowfall").

When used to refer to time, the Dutch diminutive form can indicate whether the person in question found it pleasant or not.

  • Na een uurtje gezellig gekletst te hebben met haar vriend ging het meisje naar huis.
After chatting to her boyfriend for a little hour the girl went home.


Productive diminutives are not common in English in comparison with many other languages. For example, one comparative study found that English uses diminutives infrequently in comparison with the Czech language.[4] Nevertheless, most dialects of English feature a fair number of diminutives. Terms such as "undies" for underwear and "movie" for "moving picture" are oft-heard terms in English.

Sometimes a diminutive lengthens the original word e.g. "hottie" to denote sexually appealing (or "hot") young man or woman. (Note that analogous expressions in languages in which diminution is a regular part of the grammar would not be called diminutives.) Diminutives of first names are often encountered, e.g., Maggie (from Margaret), Sally (from Sarah), or Suzie (from Suzanne); however, they also function as nicknames.

English has also borrowed liberally from other languages when producing new diminutives: e.g. -ette is from French. However, some of those lexicalized and, in many contexts, do not function as proper diminutives in modern English.

English diminutives:



German features words such as "Häuschen" for "small house", "Würstchen" for "small sausage", "ein bisschen" for "a little bit" and "Hündchen" for "small dog". Diminutives are more frequently used than in English. They are always neutral as for grammatical gender. Some words only exist in the diminutive form, e.g. "Kaninchen" ("rabbit"). The use of diminutives is quite different between the dialects. The Alemannic dialects for example use the diminutive very often.

There are two suffixes that can be systematically applied in German:

  • -chen, e.g. "Männchen" for little man (corresponding with English -kin as seen in "munchkin", Low Saxon (Low German) and Dutch -je, -tje, -ke, -ken and other forms depending on the dialect area)
  • -lein e.g. "Männlein" for little man (corresponding with English -let and -ling, Alemannic/Swabian -lé (Spaetz), -li(Hörnli), Bavarian and Austrian -l and Latin -culus / -cula)

Suffixation of the diminutive suffixes –chen and –lein to a finally stressed word stem causes umlaut of the stressed vowel.

In Bavarian and Austrian German, the -l or -erl suffix can replace almost any usual German diminutive. For example, the normal word for "girl" in German is "Mädchen", and while Mädchen is still used frequently in Austrian German, a more colloquial "cute" usage would be "Mädl" or "Madl". It is regular for Austrians to replace the normal "Bisschen" ("a little" as in "Can I have a little more?") with "Bissl". This has become a very distinctive feature of Austrian German.

A familiar example of the -erl diminutive is "Nannerl", the childhood name of Maria Anna Mozart, the sister of the celebrated composer.

In Swabian German this is done by adding a -le suffix (the e being distinctly pronounced, but not stressed). For example, a small house would be a "Häusle" or a little girl a "Mädle". A unique feature of Swabian is that not only nouns may be suffixed with -le, which has no counterpart in other German dialects, High German, or other languages: wasele (diminutive of was, what) or jetztle (diminutive of jetzt, now) or kommele (diminutive of kommen, come). (In Spanish, these may be formed similarly, e.g. igualito — diminutive of igual, same).

Low German

In East Frisian Low Saxon, -je, -tje, and -pje are used as a diminutive suffix (e.g. huis becomes huisje (little house); boom becomes boompje (little tree)). Compare this with the High German suffix -chen (see above). Some words have a slightly different suffix, even though the diminutive always ends with -je. For example, man becomes mannetje (little man). All these suffixes East Frisian Low Saxon shares with Dutch (detailed above).

In other varieties of West Low German, spoken in the east of the Netherlands, diminutives occasionally use the umlaut in combination with the suffixes -gie(n):

  • man → mānnegie (EN: man → little man)
  • kom → kōmmegie (EN: bowl → little bowl)

In Northern Low Saxon, the -je diminutive is rarely used, except maybe Gronings, such as in Buscherumpje, a fisherman's shirt. It is usually substituted with lütte, meaning "little", as in dat lütte Huus- the small house. The same goes for the North Germanic languages.


In Lowland Scots diminutives are used much more frequently than in English. The diminutive is formed by the suffix -ie, -ock, -ockie (double diminutive) or –ag (the latter from Scottish Gaelic, and probably influencing the other two before it). -ie is by far the most common prefix used.

Examples include:

  • -ie: burnie (small burn), feardie or feartie (frightened person, coward), gamie (gamekeeper), kiltie (kilted soldier), mannie (man), Nessie (Loch Ness Monster), postie (postman), wifie (woman)
  • -ock: bittock (wee bit, little bit), playock (toy), sourock (sorrel),
  • -ag: Cheordag (Geordie), bairnag (small child)
  • -ockie: hooseockie (small house), wifockie (little woman)


A common diminutive suffix in Swedish is -is:

  • godsak → godis (English: candy)
  • daghem → dagis (English: daycare center / kindergarten)
  • sötnos → sötis (English: sweetheart)

Note that the usage of -is is not limited to child-related or "cute" things. For instance:

  • kondom → kådis (English: condom)


Yiddish frequently uses diminutives. In Yiddish the primary diminutive is "-l" or "-ele" in singular, and "-lekh" or "-elekh" in plural, sometimes involving a vowel change in the root. Thus "Volf" will become "Velvl", "Khaim"- "Khaiml", "mame" (mother) - "mamele", "Khane" - "Khanele", "Moyshe" - "Moyshele", "kind" (child) - "kindl" or "kindele", "Bobe" (grandmother) - "Bobele", "teyl" (part) - "teylekhl" (particle), "regn" (rain) - "regndl", "hant" (hand) - "hentl", "fus" (foot) - "fisl". The longer version of the suffix ("-ele" instead of "-l") sound generally more affectionate and usually used with proper names. Sometimes a few variations of the plural diminutive forms are possible: "balebos" (owner, boss) - "balebeslekh" (newly-wed young men) - "balebatimlekh" (petty bourgeois men).

Many other diminutives of Slavic origin are commonly used, mostly with proper names:

  • -ke: "Khaim/Khaimke", "Sore/Sorke", "Khaye/Khayke", "Avrom/Avromke", "bruder/bruderke" (brother). These forms are usually considered nicknames and are only used with very close friends and relatives.
  • -(e)nyu: "kale/kalenyu" (dear bride), "harts/hartsenyu" (sweetheart), "zeyde/zeydenyu" (dear grandpa). Often used as an affectionate quasi-vocative.
  • -tshik: "Avrom/Avromtshik", "yungerman/yungermantshik" (young man).
  • -inke: "tate/tatinke" (dear daddy), "baleboste/balebostinke" (dear hostess).
  • -ik: "Shmuel/Shmulik", "Yisroel/Srolik".
  • -tse or -tshe: "Sore/Sortshe", "Avrom/Avromtshe", "Itsik/Itshe".
  • -(e)shi: "bobe/bobeshi" (dear grandma), "zun/zuneshi" (dear son), "tate/tateshi" (dear daddy).
  • -lebn: "tate-lebn", "Malke-lebn". This particle might be considered a distinct compound word, and not a suffix.

These suffixes can also be combined: "Khaim/Khaimkele", "Avrom/Avromtshikl", "Itsik/Itshenyu".

Some Yiddish proper names have common non-trivial diminutive forms, somewhat similar to English names such as Bob or Wendy: "Akive/Kive", "Yishaye/Shaye", "Rivke/Rivele".

Yiddish also has diminutive forms of adjectives (all the following examples are given in masculine single form):

  • -lekh: "roylekher" (reddish), "gelblekher" (yellowish), "zislekher" (a little bit sweet).
  • -ink: "roytinker" (cute red), "gelinker" (cute yellow), "zisinker" (sweet, sweetie).
  • -tshik or -itshk: "kleynitshker" (tiny little), "altitsher" (nice old).

Some Yiddish diminutives have been incorporated into modern Israeli Hebrew. "Imma" (mother) is "Immaleh" and "Abba" (father) is "Abbaleh."

Hellenic languages


Several diminutive derivational suffixes existed in Classical Greek. The most common ones were: -ι-, -ισκ-, -ιδι-, -αρι-.

Diminutives are also very common in Modern Greek. Literally every noun has its corresponding diminutive. They express either small size or affection: size "-aki" (σπίτι, spiti 'house', σπιτάκι, spitaki 'little house'; λάθος, lathos 'mistake', λαθάκι, lathaki 'negligeable mistake') or affection "-oula" (μάνα, mana 'mother', μανούλα, manoula 'mommy'). The most common suffixes are -άκης (-akis) and -ούλης (-oulis) for the male gender, -ίτσα (-itsa) and -ούλα (-oula) for the female gender, and -άκι (-aki) for the neutral gender. Several of them are common as suffixes of surnames, originally meaning the offspring of a certain person, e.g. Παπάς (Papas) 'priest' with Παπαδάκης (Papadakis) as the surname.

Indo-Iranian languages


In Hindi and related languages like Marathi, proper nouns are made diminutive with -u. This is of course most often applied to children's names, though lifelong nicknames can result:

  • Rajiv → Raju
  • Anita → Neetu


The most frequently used Persian diminutives are -cheh (چه-) and -ak (ک-).

  • Bâgh باغ (garden), bâghcheh باغچه (small garden)
  • Mard مرد (man), mardak مردک (this fellow)

Other less used ones are -izeh and -zheh.

  • Rang رنگ (colour), rangizeh رنگیزه (pigment)
  • Nây نای (pipe), nâyzheh نایژه (small pipe, bronchus)


In Sinhala, proper nouns are made diminutive with -a after usually doubling the last pure consonant, or adding -ya.

  • Rajitha → Rajja
  • Romesh → Romma
  • Sashika → Sashsha
  • Ramith → Ramiya

Latin and Romance languages


French diminutives can be formed with a wide range of endings. Often, a consonant or phoneme is placed between the root word and the diminutive ending for phonetic purposes: porc, or pig, becomes piglet with the diminutive -et ending, but a phoneme separates the two: porcelet.

Feminine nouns or names are typically made diminutive by adding the ending -ette: fillette (little girl or little daughter [affectionate], from fille, girl or daughter); courgette (small squash or marrow, i.e., zucchini, from courge, squash); Jeannette (from Jeanne); pommettes (cheekbones), from pomme (apple); cannette (female duckling), from cane (female duck). This ending has crossed over into English as well (e.g. kitchenette). Feminine nouns may also end in -elle (mademoiselle, from madame).

Masculine names or nouns may be turned into diminutives with the ending -ot, -on, or -ou, but sometimes, for phonetic reasons, an additional consonant is added (e.g. -on becomes -ton, -ou becomes -nou, etc.): Jeannot (Jonny), from Jean (John); Pierrot (Petey) from Pierre (Peter); chiot (puppy), from chien (dog); fiston (sonny or sonny-boy), from fils (son); caneton (male duckling), from canard (duck or male duck); chaton (kitten), from chat (cat); minou (kitty, presumably from the root for miauler, to meow); Didou (Didier); Philou or Filou (Philippe).

Some masculine diminutives are formed with the masculine version of -ette: -et. For example: porcelet, piglet, from porc; oiselet, fledgling, from oiseau, bird. However, in many cases the names for baby animals are not diminutives—that is, unlike chaton/chat or chiot/chien, they are not derived from the word for the adult animal: poulain, foal (an adult horse is a cheval); agneau, lamb (an adult is either a brebis, female sheep, or a bélier, male sheep). French is not unique in this, but it is indicated here to clarify that not all names of animals can be turned into diminutives by the addition of diminutive endings.

In Old French, -et/-ette, -in/-ine, -el/-elle were often used, as Adeline for Adele, Maillet for Maill and so on. As well, the ending -on was used for both genders, as Alison and Guion from Alice and Guy respectively.


In Italian, the diminutive for people is usually expressed by changing masculine (usually -o) to -ino and feminine (usually -a) to -ina, whereas for inanimate objects, the pattern is -o to -etto and -a to -etta. -ello and -ella also exist, though often as the result of the italicization of words from other Romance languages. The new word is then pluralized as a word in its own right. The animate/inanimate rule is extremely loose. In the case of masculine diminutives for names, -uccio can also be used as a suffix but is slightly old fashioned.

Examples which have made it into English are mostly culinary, like linguine (named for its resemblance to little tongues ("lingue", in Italian)), and bruschetta. The diminution is often figurative: an operetta is similar to an opera, but dealing with less serious topics. "Signorina" means "Miss", whereas "signorino" would be a pejorative belittling of a man, same meanings as señorita and señorito in Spanish. The augmentative also exists: -one.


In the Latin language the diminutive is formed also by suffixes affixed to the word stem. The grammatical gender remains unchanged.

  • -ulus, -ula, -ulum, e.g. globulus (globule) from globus (globe).
  • -culus, -cula, -culum, e.g. homunculus (little man) from homo (man)
  • -olus, -ola, -olum, e.g. malleolus (little hammer) from malleus (hammer)
  • -ellus, -ella, -ellum, e.g. libellus (little book) from liber (book)

Similarly, the diminutive of gladius (sword) is gladiolus, a plant whose leaves look like small swords.

Adjectives as well as nouns can be diminished, including paululus (very small) from paulus (small).

The verbal diminutive in Latin fixes -ill- to the verb before the personal ending, always changing it to the first conjugation. An example is conscribillo (scribble over), the diminutive of conscribo (write onto) of which the infinitive is conscribillare, despite the infinitive of conscribo being conscribere (third conjugation).

The Anglicisation of Latin diminutives is relatively common, especially in medical terminology. In nouns, the most common conversion is removal of the -us, -a, -um endings and changing them to a silent 'e'. Hence some examples are vacuole from vacuolum, particle from particula and globule from globulus.[5]


In Portuguese, the most common diminutives are formed with the suffixes -(z)inho, -(z)inha, replacing the masculine and feminine endings -o and -a, respectively. The variants -(z)ito and -(z)ita, direct analogues of Spanish -(c)ito and -(c)ita, are also common in some regions. The forms with a z are normally added to words that end in stressed vowels, such as cafécafezinho. Some nouns have slightly irregular diminutives.

Noun diminutives are widely used in the vernacular. Occasionally, this process is extended to pronouns (pouco, a little → pouquinho or poucochinho, a very small amount), adjectives (e.g. bobobobinho, meaning respectively "silly" and "a bit silly"; sozinho, both meaning "alone" or "all alone"), adverbs (depressinha, "quickly") and even verbs (correndocorrendinho, both of which mean "running", but the latter with an endearing connotation).


Romanian uses suffixes to create diminutives, most of these suffixes being of Latin or SlavicTemplate:Fact origin.


  • -ea (jucărie / jucărea = toy)
  • -ică (bucată / bucăţică = piece)
  • -ioară (inimă / inimioară = heart)
  • -işoară (ţară / ţărişoară = country)
  • -iţă (fată / fetiţă = girl)
  • -uşcă (raţă / răţuşcă = duck)
  • -uţă (bunică / bunicuţă = grandmother)


  • -aş (iepure / iepuraş = rabbit)
  • -el (băiat / băieţel = boy)
  • -ic (tată / tătic = father)
  • -ior (dulap / dulăpior = locker)
  • -işor (pui / puişor = chicken)
  • -uleţ (urs / ursuleţ = bear)
  • -uş (căţel / căţeluş = dog)
  • -uţ (pat / pătuţ = bed)



Spanish is a rich language in diminutives, and uses suffixes to create them:

  • -ito/-ita, words ending in -o or -a (rata, "rat" → ratita. Ojo, "eye" → ojito. Cebolla, "onion" → cebollita),
  • -cito/-cita, words ending in -e or consonant (león, "lion" → leoncito. Café, "coffee" → cafecito),
  • -illo/-illa (flota; "fleet" → flotilla. Guerra, "war" → guerrilla. Cámara, "chamber" → camarilla),
  • -ico/-ica, words ending in -to and -tro (plato, "plate" → platico),
  • -ín/-ina (pequeño/a, "little" → pequeñín(a). Muchacho/a, "boy" → muchachín(a))
  • -ete/-eta (Pandero, "tambourine" → pandereta).

Other less common suffixes are

  • -uelo/-uela (pollo, "chicken" → polluelo),
  • -zuelo/-zuela [pejorative] (ladrón, "thief" → landronzuelo),
  • -uco/-uca (nene, "children" → nenuco),
  • -ucho/-ucha [pejorative] (médico, "doctor" → medicucho),
  • -ijo/-ija (lagarto, "lizard" → lagartija),
  • -izno/-izna (lluvia, "rain" → llovizna),
  • -ajo/-aja (miga, "crumb" → migaja),
  • -ino/-ina (niebla, "fog" → neblina).

Some speakers use a suffix in a word twise, which gives a more affectionate sense to the word.

  • Chico, "boy" → chiquito → chiquitito/a, chiquitico/a, chiquitín(a).
  • Pie, "foot" → piecito → piececito, piececillo.

Sometimes alternating different suffixes can change the meaning.

  • (La) mano, "hand" → manita, "little hand", or manilla or manecilla, "hand (clock)".

Non-Indo-European languages

Dravidian languages


  • Ramanathan, Ramalingam: Ramu
  • Adhiseshan: Seshu
  • Somanathan, Somaskanthan: Somu
  • SuryaNarayanan: Surya
  • Sivalingam: Siva
  • Nanthakumar, Nandikesan: Nandhu
  • Padmini: Padi


  • Srinivas: Seenu

Semitic languages


In Modern Standard Arabic the usual diminutive pattern is Fu`ayL (CuCayC), with or without the feminine -ah added:

  • kūt كوت"fort" → kuwayt كويت "little fort"
  • hirra هِرّة "cat" → hurayrah هُرَيرة "kitten"

In certain varieties of Arabic, reduplication of the last syllable is also used (similarly to Hebrew), as in:

  • Batta بطة "duck" → Batbota بطبوطة "small-duck"


Modern Hebrew employs a reduplication pattern that some scholars call quinquiliteral, qataltal, qitiltil, or abcbc to mark diminutive forms.

  • kelev (dog) → klavlav (puppy)
  • xatul (cat) → xataltul/xataltal (kitten)
  • batsal (onion) → btsaltsal (small onion)
  • adom (red) → adamdam (slightly red)

Also, the suffixes -on and -it sometimes mark diminutive forms for masculine (-on) and feminine (-it).

  • kova' (hat) → kova'on (small cap)
  • yeled (kid) → yaldon (young kid)
  • saq (sac) → saqit (bag)
  • kaf (tablespoon) → kapit (teaspoon)

Sino-Tibetan languages


Personal names in Chinese, not including the family name, are usually two characters in length. Often, the first of the two characters is omitted and replaced with the prefix characterxiǎo-, literally meaning "little", or 阿 ā- (more prevalent in Southern China) to produce an affectionate, diminutive name. For example, famous Cantopop singer 劉德華 Lau Tak-Wah (Andy Lau; Liú Déhuá) could use the nicknames 小華 Xiăohuá or 阿華 Āhuá.

Sometimes, "-zǐ" is also used as a diminutive suffix.[6] In the Cantonese dialect, the suffix 仔 -zăi is used after the second character in the individual's given name. Again using the name of famous Cantopop singer 劉德華 Lau Tak-Wah (Andy Lau; Liú Déhuá), the nickname he could (and does in fact) use in Hong Kong is 華仔 or Huázăi.

Turkic language


See also Turkish grammar

Turkish diminutive suffixes are -cik and -ceğiz, and variants thereof as dictated by the vowel harmony rules of Turkish grammar.

-cik is applied in cases of endearment and affection, in particular toward infants and young children by exaggerating qualities such as smallness and youngness , whereas -ceğiz is used in situations of compassion and empathy, especially when expressing sympathy toward another person in times of difficulty. Note the effects of vowel harmony in the following examples:

  • köy (village) → köyceğiz (dear little village), kadın (woman) → kadıncağiz (poor dear woman), çocuk (child) → çocukcağiz (poor dear child)
  • kedi (cat) → kedicik (cute little cat), gül (laugh) → gülücük (giggles/cute little laugh), Mehmet (a common male name) → Mehmetçik (little/young Mehmet, see also Mehmetçik)

Uralic languages


The diminutive suffixes of Finnish "-kka" and "-nen" are not universal, and cannot be used on every noun. The feature is common in Finnish surnames, f.e. 'Jokinen' could translate 'Streamling', but since this form is not used in speaking about streams, the surname could also mean 'lands by the stream' or 'lives by the stream'. Double diminutives also occur in certain words f.e. lapsukainen (child, not a baby anymore), lapsonen (small child), lapsi (child).


Hungarian uses the suffixes -ka/ke and -cska/cske to form diminutive nouns. The suffixes -i and -csi may also be used with names. However, you traditionally cannot have the diminutive form of your name registered officially in Hungary (although a few of the most common diminutive forms have been registered as possible legal first names in the past years). Nouns formed this way are considered separate words (as all words that are formed using képző type suffixes). They may not even be grammatically related to the base word, only historically, whereas the relation has been long forgotten.

Some examples:

  • Animals
    • -us: kutyakutyus (dog), cicacicus (cat)
    • -ci: medvemaci (bear), borjúboci (calf)
  • Names
    • -i: János (John) → Jani, JúliaJuli, KataKati, MáriaMari, SáraSári
    • -csi: JánosJancsi
    • -ika/ike: JúliaJulika, MáriaMarika
    • -iska/iske: JúliaJuliska, MáriaMariska
    • -us: BélaBélus
    • -ci: Bélaci, LászlóLaci, JúliaJuci
    • -có: FerencFe, JózsefJo
    • -tya: PéterPetya, ZoltánZotya
    • -nyi: Sándor (Alexander) → Sanyi

Note that these are all special diminutive suffixes. The universal -ka/ke and -cska/cske can be used to create further diminutive forms, e.g. kutyuska (little doggy), cicuska (little kitty). Theoretically, more and more diminutive forms can be created this way, e.g. kutyuskácskácska (little doggy-woggy-snoggy). Of course, this is not a common practice; the preferred translations are kutyulimutyuli (doggy-woggy) and cicamica (kitty-witty).

In some cases, the diminutive suffix has become part of the basic form. These are no longer regarded as diminutive forms:

  • Animals
    • -ka/ke: ka (seal), ka (fox), csóka (jackdaw), pulyka (turkey), szarka (magpie)
    • -cska/cske: macska (cat), kecske (goat), fecske (swallow), szöcske (grasshopper)

You can use the adjectives kicsi or kis (little) to create diminutive forms of these nouns, e.g. kicsi macska or kismacska (kitten). Note that kicsi itself is a diminutive of kis.

International auxiliary languages


See also Esperanto word formation.

For generic use (for living beings and inanimate objects), Esperanto has a single diminutive suffix, -et.

  • domo (house) → dometo (cottage)
  • varma (warm) → varmeta (lukewarm)
  • knabo (boy) → knabeto (little boy)

For personal names and familial forms of address, the affixes -nj- and -ĉj- are used, for females and males respectively. Unusually for Esperanto, the "root" is often shortened, in an unpredictable manner, before being added to.

  • Patrino (Mother) → Panjo (Mum, Mom)
  • Mario (Mary, Maria) → Manjo, Marinjo
  • Sofio (Sophie, Sophia) → Sonjo, Sofinjo
  • Patro (Father) → Paĉjo (Dad, Daddy)
  • Johano (John, Johann) → Johanĉjo, Joĉjo (Jack, Johnny)
  • Vilhelmo (William, Wilhelm) → Vilhelĉjo, Vilheĉjo, Vilĉjo, Viĉjo (Willy, Bill, Billy)

Whereas languages such as Spanish may use the diminutive to denote offspring, as in "perrito" (pup), Esperanto has a dedicated and regular suffix, "-id" used for this purpose. Thus "hundeto" is not "pup", but rather "puppy" (little dog), and "hundido" means "pup" (young dog).


See also Free word-building in Interlingua.

Interlingua has a single diminutive suffix, -ett, for diminutives of all sorts.

  • Johannes (John) → Johannetto (Johnny)
  • camera (chamber, room) → cameretta (little room)
  • pullo (chicken) → pulletto (chick)

Use of this suffix is flexible, and diminutives such as mama and papa may also be used. To denote a small person or object, many Interlingua speakers simply use the word parve, or small:

  • parve can → small dog
  • parve arbore → small tree

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Beyond the diminutive form of a single word, a diminutive can be a multi-word name, such as "Tiny Tim" or "Little Dorrit".
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Standards Site: Glossary - D to F", Crown Copyright, 1997-2008, webpage: Gov-UK-Glossary-DEF.
  3. Studies on word-formation in Lithuanian (1944-1974), Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
  4. CHAMONIKOLASOVÁ, Jana - RAMBOUSEK, Jiří. Diminutive expressions in translation: a comparative study of English and Czech. Belgian Journal of Linguistics 21, Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing Company, The Nederlands. ISSN 0774-5141, 2007, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 51-67. Abstract
  5. For more information on Latin diminutives see Diminutivum (Latinum) (in Latin)

See also


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

WOTD - 8 April 2009    




From Old French diminutif (1398), < Latin diminutivum, (verb deminuere, ‘diminish’).



diminutive (comparative more diminutive, superlative most diminutive)


more diminutive

most diminutive

  1. Very small.
  2. Serving to diminish.




The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.




diminutive (plural diminutives)

  1. (grammar) A word form expressing smallness or youth.
    Booklet, the diminutive of book, means ‘small book’.



External links

Related terms




  1. Definite of diminutiv.
  2. Plural of diminutiv.



diminutive f.

  1. Feminine form of diminutif.



diminutive f.

  1. Feminine plural form of diminutivo.

Simple English

A diminutive is a formation of a word used to express smallness of the object or quality that is meant with the word the diminutive is formed from.

Examples in English

Diminutives are common in most dialects of English. Terms such as "undies" for underwear and "movie" for "moving picture" are frequently heard terms in English.

Common diminutives are:


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