Especially in spoken Spanish, a diminutive suffix is added to words for several reasons, not just to say something is small. They are also used to show affection or to be more friendly. For example, by adding the suffix –ito or –cito it can change the meaning from “grandmother” to “granny” or from “dog” to “doggy”. In this article we will learn how to use diminutive suffixes in Spanish and when to use them.
Common diminutives: -ito, -ita, -illo, -cito, -cita, -ico, -cico, -uelo, -zuelo, -cete, -ín, -iño.
They vary between countries or areas of the Spanish-speaking world. They can be added to nouns, adjectives, names or adverbs and they agree with the gender and number of the word they are modifying.
1) For most words that end in a vowel other than -e, you drop the final vowel and add –ito / -ita or –illo / -illa.
un momento (one moment) – un momentito (a very short moment)
hermana (sister) – hermanita (little sister)
mesa (table) – mesita (little table)
2) Words with one syllable that end in e, n, r or a stressed vowel, take –cito or –cillo.
pobre (poor) – pobrecito (poor little thing)
una joven (young girl) – jovencita (young girl – more affectionate)
escritor – escritorcito (second-rate writer)
papá (dad) – papacito (daddy)
3) Words with one syllable that end in a consonant take –ecito, -ecillo:
pan (bread) – panecillo (bread roll)
• To say something is small: un gatito (kitten), un cafecito (a little coffee)
• To show something is charming or endearing: mamita (mummy), chiquito (boy)
• To change a meaning slightly: gordito (chubby), cerquita (right next to).
• To be more friendly: un ratito (a short moment), un momentito (one moment), Juanito (Johnny).
• To show something is unimportant: un dolorcito (a little pain), un trabajito (a little/easy job).
• To talk to children: un conejito (a bunny), osito (teddy bear), camisita (shirt).