Definitions

baleboste

Diminutive

[dih-min-yuh-tiv]
A diminutive 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. 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 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. 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 suffixes is a regular part of grammar. 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.

Germanic languages

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. 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.)

English has also borrowed liberally from other languages when producing new diminutives, e.g. -ette is from French.

Common diminutives are:

Scots

In Lowland Scots diminutives are used much more frequently than in English. The diminutive is formed by the suffix -ie, -ock, -ockie 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:

German

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 very common 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 -lé suffix (the è being distinctly pronounced, but not stressed). For example, a small house would be a "Häuslé" or a little girl a "Mädlé". The special of Swabian is that not only nouns may be suffixed with -lé, which has no counterpart in other German dialects, High German, or other languages: waselé (diminutive of was, what) or jetztlé (diminutive of jetzt, now) or kommelé (diminutive of kommen, come). (In Spanish, these may be formed similarly, i.e. 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)). 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 below).

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). Examples:

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

Compare this with the German suffix -chen

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.

Dutch

In Dutch, the diminutive is formed by adding one of the suffixes-je, tje, -pje, -etje, -kje, -ke, -eke, -ske, -ie to the noun in question. The forms -ke, eke, -ske, -ie are not used in official spelling.

In Dutch, not only nouns can get a diminutive but also adjectives and adverbs. The noun however will remain able to be used together with (in)definite articles. In this case -s is added. Some examples;

  • adjective:
    • groen (green)- "groentje" (lit. little green" meaning rookie)
  • adverbs:
    • groen (green) - "groentjes" (lit.little green meaning greenish")
    • net (tidy) - "netjes" (lit little tidy meaning "tidy-ish")
    • zacht (soft) - "zachtjes" (lit.little soft meaning "softly")

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

  • bloem (flower) - bloempje (lit. "small/little flower") meaning little/small flower)
  • bloem (flower) - bloemetje (lit. "small/little flower" meaning bouquet)

There are also a number of words that exist solely in a diminutive form.

  • zeepaardje (lit. "small/little seahorse" meaning seahorse')
  • sneeuwklokje (lit. "small/little snowdrop" meaning snowdrop')

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

  • In de rij heb ik een uur moeten wachten voordat ik aan de beurt was.

(I had to wait an hour in line before it was my turn.)

  • 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.)

Afrikaans

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. Diminutives are extremely widely used in the Afrikaans language. In some cases the diminutive is the most commonly used, or even only form of the word. For example bietjie (a [little] bit), mandjie (basket) or 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.

  • Is jou hartjie seer? Is your [little] heart sore? (sympathy)
  • Dit is sy bedraetjie. That is his [little] contribution (sarcasm)
  • Kom, outjies. Trek saam. Come, [little] mates. Pull together (camaraderie)
  • Ja, basie, en wat het jy te sê? Yes, [little] boss, and what have you to say? (disdain)
  • Ons het 'n probleempie. We have a [little] problem (euphemism)

Diminutives of words that are themselves diminutives are used, for example baadjietjie (little jacket).

Words ending in -f, -g, -k, -p or -s add ie.

  • neef - nefie (nephew)
  • lag - laggie (laugh)
  • vark - varkie (pig)
  • skaap - skapie (sheep)
  • bos - bossie (bush)

Words ending in -m add pie.

  • boom - boompie (tree)

Words ending in -ing drop the g and add kie.

  • koning - koninkie (king)

Words ending in -i, -o, or -u add ′tjie. These are often words borrowed from other languagues.

  • impi - impi′tjie

Words ending in -d or -t take jie

  • hoed - hoedjie (hat), rot - rotjie (rat)

Consonant-vowel-consonant words ending in -b, -l, -m, -n or -r add etjie.

  • rob - robbejie (seal), bal - balletjie (ball), kam - kammetjie (comb), pan - pannetjie (pan), kar - karretjie (car)

Most other words add tjie.

  • soen - soentjie (kiss), koei - koeitjie (cow), tuin - tuintjie (garden), appel - appeltjie (apple)

Exceptions to the rules include:-

  • blad - blaadjie (newspaper), pad - paadjie (road), gat - gaatjie (hole), vat - vaatjie (barrel)
  • ring - ringetjie (ring), slang - slangetjie (snake)

Yiddish

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 ussualy 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 has been incorporated into modern Israeli Hebrew. "Imma" (mother) is "Immaleh" and "Abba" (father) is "Abbaleh."

Swedish

A common diminutive suffix in Swedish is -is:

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

  • kondom - kådis (English: condom)

Latin and Romance languages

Latin

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.

French

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); 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.

Informal French often produces words that could be considered diminutives by either cutting a word in half after the letter O, or chopping off the end of the word and adding an O: McDo from McDonalds; gynéco from gynécologue; dico from dictionnaire; dodo (childish word for sleep, from dormir, to sleep); écolo from écologiste; Catho from Catholique; psycho from psychologie. The ending -oche (with or without an intervening consonant or phoneme to make it easier to pronounce) is also sometimes used: cinoche (cinéma), MacDoche (McDonalds), fastoche (easy-peezy, from facile, easy). Words or names may also be shortened or abbreviated without an O: fixs from fixations, 'ski bindings'; Jean-Phi from Jean-Philippe; amphi from amphithéatre (large classroom or lecture hall); ciné (another informal word for cinéma). However, none of these words have the connotation of small size or affectionate feelings from the speaker, so it is questionable whether they qualify as diminutives. They are simply familiar/informal versions of the underlying words. That being said, the connotation of familiarity (my friend Jean-Phi, as opposed to my new work colleague Jean-Philippe; cinoche, the place I often go for entertainment, as opposed to cinéma, the neutral word for a movie theater) arguably may suffice to qualify these words as diminutives.

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.

Italian

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. 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.

Portuguese

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. tontotontinho, 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

Romanian uses suffixes to create diminutives, most of these suffixes being of Latin or Slavic origin.

Feminine

  • -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)

Masculine

  • -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

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),
  • -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 (cebolla, "onion" → cebollita. 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 twice a suffix in a word, which gives a more affective 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)".

Slavic languages

Bulgarian

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 -che. At this points the noun has become neuter, because of the -e ending. The -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 -ka, -chka, -tsa.

Neuter nouns can have only one diminutive suffix -ntse.

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

Czech

In Czech diminutives are formed by suffixes, as in other Slavic languages. 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). Diminutives can be diminuted further by adding another diminutive suffix. E.g.: "Júlie" (Julia), "Julka" (little Julia), "Júlinka" (very little Julia). Czech diminutives can also express familiarity, meliorative, and affection. Hence, "Julka" may well mean "our", "cute" or "beloved" Julia.

Example: "k-diminutives"

/-ka/ (feminine noun forms)

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

/-ko/ (neuter noun forms)

  • rádio (radio) → rádijko (little/cute/beloved radio)
  • víno (wine) → vínko (little/cute/beloved wine)
  • triko (T-shirt) → tričko (little/cute/beloved T-shirt)
  • pero (feather) → pírko (little/cute/beloved feather)
  • oko (eye) → očko (little/cute/beloved eye = eyelet)

/-ek/ (masculine noun forms)

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

/-ík/

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

Other common diminutive suffixes are /-inka/, /-enka/, /-ečka/, /-ička/, /-ul-/, /-unka/, /-íček/, /-ínek/ etc. Note the various stem mutations, such as palatalization, vowel shortening or vowel lengthening.

Polish

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, however, depending on the context, 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, -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:

Feminine

  • żaba (frog) → żabcia, żabusia, żabeńka, żabuleńka, żabeczka, żabunia, żabka
  • córka (daughter) → córeczka
  • 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

Masculine

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

Neuter

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

Plural

  • kwiaty (flowers) → kwiatki, kwiatuszki

Adjective

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

Adverbs

  • szybko (fast) → szybciutko, szybciuteńko, szybciusieńko
  • szybciej (faster) → szybciusiej
  • najszybciej (the fastest) → najszybciusiej

Numerals

  • pierwszy (first) → pierwszusienki

Pronouns

  • każdy (everyone) → każdziutki, każdziuteńki

Verbs

  • płakać (to weep) → płakuniać, płakusiać

Russian

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, "mom") 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:

  • Andrei - Andryusha, Andryushenka
  • Mikhail - Misha
  • Dmitrii - Dima, Mitya
  • Aleksei - Alyosha, Lyosha
  • Aleksandr - Sasha
  • Nikolai - Kolya
  • Pyotr - Petya
  • Vladimir - Volodya
  • Sergei - Seryozha
  • Anastasia - Nastia, Nastenka
  • Yekaterina - Katya, Katyusha, Katenka
  • Natalya - Natasha
  • Aleksandra - Sasha
  • Irina - Ira
  • Viktoria - Vika
  • Tatyana - Tanya
  • Yevgeniya - Zhenya

Celtic languages

Irish

The Irish language has a number of diminutives.

The most common diminutives are:

-(e)og - A feminine diminutive;
-an/in - A masculine diminutive.

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 - A feminine diminutive;
-(e)an - A masculine diminutive.

e.g.

  • Mor ("Sarah") → Morag
  • Loch Nis (Loch Ness) → Niseag ("Nessie")
  • lochlochan.
  • bodach (old man) → bodachan (mannikin)

Other Indo-European languages

Greek

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 small size (σπίτι-spiti 'house', σπιτάκι-spitaki 'little house'; λάθος-lathos 'mistake', λαθάκι-lathaki 'negligeable mistake') or affection (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 'priest' Παπαδάκης Papadakis (surname).

Hindi

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

Sinhala

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

Lithuanian

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. Prefixes 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. 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)

Persian

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

  • Bãgh باغ (garden), bãghcheh باغچه (small garden)
  • Mard مرد (man), mardak مردک (this fellow)

Other less used ones are -izeh and -zheh.

  • Rang رنگ (colour), rangizeh رنگیزه (pigment)
  • Nãy نای (pipe), nãyzheh نایژه (small pipe, bronchus)

Other natural languages

Tamil

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

Arabic

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"

Chinese

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. 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.

Finnish

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 'Riverling', but since this form is not used in speaking about rivers, the surname could also mean 'lands by the river' or 'lives by the river'. Double diminutives also occur in certain words f.e. lapsukainen (child, not a baby anymore), lapsonen (small child), lapsi (child).

Hungarian

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 cannot have the diminutive form of your name registered officially. 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
    • -i: medvemaci (bear), borjúboci (calf)
    • -ka/ke: csóka (jackdaw), ka (seal), ka (fox), pulyka (turkey), szarka (magpie)
    • -cska/cske: fecske (swallow), kecske (goat), macska (cat) – this is actually a loanword from Slavic languages, szöcske (grasshopper)
    • -us: kutyakutyus (dog), cicacicus (cat)
  • Names
    • -i: János (John) → Jani, JúliaJuli, KataKati, MáriaMari, SáraSári
    • -csi: JánosJancsi
    • -ika/ike: JúliaJulika, MáriaMarika
    • -iska/iske: JúliaJuliska, MáriaMariska
    • -us: BélaBélus
    • -tya: PéterPetya
    • -nyi: Sándor (Alexander) → Sanyi

Turkish

See also Turkish grammar.

Turkish diminutive suffixes are -cik and -cegiz (-cegiz):

  • ev = evcik (house)
  • Mehmet = Mehmetçik (This is an incorrect diminutive because it is a prestigious generic name for Turkish Soldier. Arabic Muhammad's Turkish version is Mehmet, which denotes Soldiers of Muhammad or Muhammad Like.)
  • Cik suffix usually denotes small quantity, poorness, or youngness
  • Cegiz suffix usually appended to inanimate objects.

Constructed or auxiliary languages

Esperanto

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" (puppy), Esperanto has a dedicated and regular suffix, "-id" used for this purpose. Thus "hundeto" is not "puppy", but rather "little dog", but "hundido" means "puppy" (dog-offspring).

Interlingua

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

References

See also

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