Diminutives

Spanish diminutivesDiminutivos

In Spanish, suffixes called diminutives can be added to nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and names to indicate smallness, as well as other ideas such as affection, humor, pity, irony, or ridicule. In this way, you can say that something is little without adding an adjective like pequeño to indicate smallness or querido to indicate affection.

Diminutives change to match the gender and number of the word they modify.  Common Spanish diminutives:

masculine-ito-cito-ecito
feminine-illo-cillo-ecillo

Basically there are two different diminutives, –ito and –illo, but other letters may need to be added depending on what the modified word ends in.

1. For most words, including those that end in any vowel other than E, drop the final vowel and add –ito or –illo:

ahoranow ahoritaright now
hermanobrother hermanitolittle brother
JuanaJean JuanitaJeannie

2. Words with more than one syllable that end in E, N, R, or a stressed vowel take –cito or –cillo:

una jovenyoung girl jovencitayoung lady (endearing)
mamámama mamacitamommy
pintorpainter pintorcitothird-rate painter
pobrepoor pobrecitopoor little thing

3. Words with one syllable that end in a consonant take –ecito or –ecillo:

florflower florecitalittle flower
panbread panecilloroll

There are also some spelling changes related to diminutives, which are similar to those that occur with spelling-change verbs and noun plurals (learn more):

chicagirl chiquitalittle girl
DiegoJames DieguitoJimmy
pedazopiece pedacitolittle piece

 Related lessons