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:

Singular
Plural
-ito, -cito
masculine
-itos, -citos
masculine
-ita,-cita
feminine
-itas, -citas
feminine


Other popular, but less commonly used, diminutives include:

Singular
Plural
-illo
masculine
-illos
masculine
-illa
feminine
-illas
feminine

-ito, -cito, -itos, and -citos

Typically, 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.

Spanish Noun
Diminutive
cabeza
head
cabecita
little head
elefante
elephant
elefantito
little elephant
camión
truck
camioncito
little truck
dedo
finger
dedito
little finger
lunar
mole
lunarcito
little mole
solo
alone; lonely
solito
all alone
mujer
woman
mujercita
little woman
casa
house
casita
little house

-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.

ladrillo
brick
ladrillito
little brick
bocadillo
sandwich
bocadillito
little sandwich
bolsillo
pocket
bolsillito
little pocket
silla
chair
sillita
little chair

Spelling Changes

Some 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:

chica
girl
chiquita
little girl
pedazo
piece
pedacito
little piece
Diego
James
Dieguito
Jimmy

-ecito or -ecillo

Less 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.

pan
bread
panecillo
little bread; roll
flor
flower
florecita
little flower

Meaning Changes

Occassionally, the diminutive form of a word changes, or modifies, it's meaning. Consider the following examples.

pobre
poor
pobrecito
poor little thing
pintor
painter
pintorcito
third-rate painter

Other Spanish Diminutives

Throughtout the Spanish-speaking world, there are several other diminutive endings that are used. These include the following:

-ete/-eta, -cete/-ceta

amigo
friend
amiguete
buddy
patín
skate
patinete
scooter


-ín/-iña

flauta
flute
flautín
piccolo; little flute


-uelo/-uela, -zuelo/-zuela

Venecia
Venice
Venezuela
Little Venice


-ico/–ica, -cico/-cica

momento
moment
momentico
short moment
plato
plate
platico
small plate

Diminutive Uses

Diminutive 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.