Diminutives in Spanish
Diminutives are difficult to recognize in English. In fact, the English language employs very few diminutives when compared with Spanish. "Kitty" (little cat) and "doggy" (little dog) are examples of diminutives in English. In Spanish, most nouns and adjectives have a diminutive form. The diminutive form in Spanish is the equivalent to modifying a word with "little". Diminutive suffixes in Spanish must match the noun or adjective they modify in both gender and number. The following are the most common diminutive suffixes:
Other popular, but less commonly used, diminutives include:
-ito, -cito, -itos, and -citosTypically, if a Spanish noun or adjectives ends in -a, -o or -te, the diminutive is formed by dropping the last vowel and adding -ito(s) or -ita(s). For all other words -cito(s), -cita(s) are used to form the diminutive. There are however variations to these rules that must be memorized. Consider the following examples.
-illa(s), -illo(s), -cilla(s), and -cillo(s)Just because a word ends with -illa(s), -illo(s), -cilla(s) or -cillo(s) does not mean it's necessarily a diminutive. Consider the following examples.
Spelling ChangesSome diminutive forms require spelling changes. These spelling changes are similiar to those that occur with spelling-change verbs and noun plurals. Review the following examples:
-ecito or -ecilloLess common but important diminutives to recognize and know are -ecito or -ecillo. Spanish words with just one syllable that end in a consonant are formed into the diminutive by simply adding -ecito or -ecillo.
little bread; roll
Meaning ChangesOccassionally, the diminutive form of a word changes, or modifies, it's meaning. Consider the following examples.
poor little thing
Other Spanish DiminutivesThroughtout the Spanish-speaking world, there are several other diminutive endings that are used. These include the following:
piccolo; little flute
Diminutive UsesDiminutive are used in various situations. Consider the following examples.
In addition to nouns and adjectives, diminutives can also be used to strengthen adverbs.
He is close by.
Él está cerca.
He is really close by.
Él está cerquita.
I need it now.
Lo necesito ahora.
I need it right now!
¡Lo necesito ahorita!
They are often used when talking to children.
Did you hit your little head?
¿Te golpeaste la cabecita?
They are often used to indicate something (or someone) is beloved or endearing.
My dear grandma passed away yesterday.
Mi abuelita falleció ayer.
They are often used to strike a friendly tone in conversation.
Please, wait just a moment longer, sir.
Por favor señor, espera un momentito más.
They are often used to make subtle changes in meaning to certain adjectives.
The car is brand new.
El coche es nuevecito.