A diminutive is a formation of a word used to convey a degree of smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment.
Diminutives are often used for affection. 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.
In many languages diminutives are created by adding endings (suffixes) to the word. The effect of using a small form of a word can be to indicate affection or familiarity, but depending on context or intonation even derision.
In English the alteration of meaning is often but not essentially conveyed through smaller size. English diminutives tend to be shorter and more colloquial than the basic form of the word. English has borrowed liberally from other languages when producing new diminutives, e.g. -ette is from French.
Common diminutives are:
- -ey/-ie/-y: dearie, doggy, kitty
- -ette: diskette, cigarette, kitchenette
- -let: piglet, chicklet, applet, eyelet, gauntlet, tablet
- -ling: duckling, gosling
In German the common diminutives are -chen or -lein, such as “Häuschen” for “small house”, “Würstchen” for “small sausage”, but also different German dialects may have their own typical diminutive, such as -le, -li, -el.
Diminutives are more frequently used than in English. Some words only exist in the diminutive form, e.g. “Kaninchen” (“rabbit”). The use of diminutives is quite different between the dialects.
In Spanish, the suffix “-illo” or “illa” is used. Some well-known examples of this are the international words tortilla, camarilla, flotilla and guerrilla, all of them of Spanish origin.
- -cito/a or -ecito/a : grande → grandecito/a
- cross: cruz → crucecita
- small: chico → chiquito → chiquitito
- -ito /-ita: Carlos -> Carlito ; Racquel ->Racquelita.
In Portuguese, diminutives are formed by adding suffixes to the words. There are over 20 different suffixes, though only some of them can be applied to each word. You can add these suffixes to nouns, adjectives or adverbs.
The most common diminutives are formed with the suffixes -(z)inho, -(z)inha: café -> cafezinho; pouco -> pouquinho).
The result varies, it can make something more familiar, smaller, more important, intensify the meaning of it or simply have no effect at all. You can see the concept of diminutive goes much further when you think of it applied to words that aren’t nouns.
French diminutives usually end in -ette, such as fillette (young girl) or courgette (small marrow) and this frequently carries over into English as well.
While informal French often produces diminutive effects simply by cutting a word in half (McDo from McDonalds, fixs from fixations ‘ski bindings’), the ending -oche is sometimes used.
For example, cinoche (ciné) and MacDoche(McDonalds).
Italian is like Portuguese. There are more than 10 ways to form Italian diminutives, and much more to alterate the nouns in other ways.
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 an -ik, -ok (-yok) (masculine gender), -chk-/-shk- and -on’k-/-en’k- suffixes.
For example, “voda” (вода, “water”) becomes “vodichka” (водичка, “little water”), “kot” (кот, “male cat”) becomes “kotik” (kotik), “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), etc.
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).
Source: Unilang.org; Wikipedia