Using Diminutives in Spanish
Diminutives are commonly used in Spanish, and especially in conversations between friends. Perhaps you’ve already noticed Spanish diminutives in use – because you’ve told people you speak ‘un poquito’ of Spanish instead of “un poco“.
What is a Spanish diminutive?
A diminutive in Spanish is a word with an added suffix that slightly changes the meaning of the word. Typically, diminutives reference smaller version of something or serve to add an emotional or endearing emphasis. Sometimes they can convey sarcasm or negativity. The closest English equivalent might be adding a “y” to the ending of a word, like “doggy” as opposed to “dog”, or just adding “little” in front of a word.
How diminutives are formed
Typically diminutives are formed by adding either ‘ito‘ or ‘ita‘ to the ending of a noun or adjective. An alternative formation is using ‘cito‘ or ‘cita‘
Keep in mind that diminutives also agree with the gender of the noun in question. The ending of the diminutive needs to match the gender of the object or person about whom you are speaking. For example, we would call a dog perrito because dog is masculine (el perro) and if we were talking about a female person we would say “pobrecita“, and with a male “pobrecito“.
perro + ito= perrito
momento + ito = momentito
pobre + cito = pobrecito
How to from the diminutive ending?
These general rules will help you form the diminutive, though there are always exceptions.
Spanish words ending in O or A
Eliminate the last vowel (o or a) and add ‘ito/ita’. This is the most common form of diminutives:
casa -> casita
pollo -> pollito
Spanish words ending in E
Keep the last vowel (e) and add ‘cito‘:
café -> cafecito
fuente -> fuentecita
suave -> suavecito
Spanish words ending in n or r
add ‘cito‘ to the end:
amor -> amorcito
rincón -> rinconcito
camion -> camioncito
Words ending in other consonant (besides n or r)
Add ‘ito/ita‘ to the end of the word:
pastel -> pastelito
puñal -> puñalits
reloj -> relojito
Exceptions and Spelling Changes:
In some cases we add ‘ecito/ecita’ either following a consonant or replacing the final vowel. This is common also in words with c or z.
nuevo -> nuevecito
flor -> florecita
luz – > lucecita
Watch out for small changes in spelling when the word contains c, z or g.
C to QU
If you are constructing the diminutive and the last letter is c, it is often transformed to ‘qu’ to keep the harder ‘c’ sound, as in:
poco -> poquito
cerca -> cerquita
chica -> chiquita
Z to C
Similarly, if a word is ending in z, it will likely need to be changed to c in order to smooth the pronunciation as in:
lápiz -> lapicito
pez – > pececito
cerveza -> cervcita
G to GU
When we have words that end in g-a or g-o (as in amigo), instead of just eliminating the a/o and adding ‘ito/ita’ as we normally would, we also add a ‘u’ following the g to smooth the transition. For example:
amigo -> amiguito
Other diminutive endings
There are a few other endings that can be used in Spanish as diminutives. These include ‘illo’, ‘zuelo’, or ‘ico’. Sometimes the diminutive used varies based on the country. This is especially the case for ‘ico‘ which is much more common in countries like Columbia, Cuba and Costa Rica and particular parts in Spain. For example:
bolso -> bolsillo
mujer -> mujerzuela (negative)
perro -> perrito vs perrico
The Big List of Common diminutives in Spanish and their meanings
The list below highlights some examples of commonly used diminutives in Spanish. Note how the diminutive sometimes changes significantly from the original meaning of the word.
Diminutives with Nouns
Typically when you create a diminutive out of a noun you are emphasizing a smaller or lighter version of it as in the case of pollo (chicken) and pollito (baby chick).
doggy / puppy
kit cat / kitten
little box / case
little door / doggy door
little fish / goldfish
|florcita / florecita
little flower (sometimes used as pet name for a loved one)
little coffee / small coffee shop
little shoe / slipper
Diminutives with People
Using a diminutive with a person typically shows affection for them.
little brother (affectionate, not necessarily younger)
lovely young lady
boyfriend / little friend
Diminutives with Time
When we use a diminutive with time, we are typically being more precise about the time.
just a moment
just a second
in a jiffy
Diminutives with Adjectives
Diminutives and adjectives can take on a few meanings. In regard to characteristics of people, using a diminutives usually makes it more polite, so instead of saying someone is fat (gordo) you can say they’re a little chubby (gordito).
thin on top
not so good looking
poor baby (usually sarcastic)
a little bit
Diminutives are an easily way to add a little bit of color and character to a common word. This is by no means an exhaustive list of diminutives in Spanish. There are many more used among Spanish speakers. Try using them every now and then, or even try making up your own!
Do you use diminutives in Spanish? Do you have a favorite one to share with us? Let us know with a commentito! (ok, that’s technically not correct)
Practice your Diminutives in Spanish!
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Test your knowledge of diminutives in Spanish. Can you write the correct diminutive form of the following words?
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Question 1 of 10
Correct. Voy a leer mi libritoIncorrect
Almost. The diminutive is librito
libro ends in ‘o’. When a word ends in ‘o’ it replaces the ‘o’ and typically takes the most common diminutive form. Remember libro is masculine
Question 2 of 10
Not quite. It’s papelito
Question 3 of 10
Good try. It’s duendecito
Question 4 of 10
You’ve probably heard this one before: señorita
Question 5 of 10
Close. Mesa becomes mesita
Question 6 of 10
¡Claro! Muy bien.Incorrect
This is a common one too: pobrecito
Question 7 of 10
Keep with it. The diminutive here is esquinita
Question 8 of 10
You did it! pequeñitoIncorrect
Good try. The correct answer is pequeñito
Question 9 of 10
You got it!Incorrect
This is a tricky one. Remember endings in n add cito, so the correct answer is avioncito
Question 10 of 10
Don’t forget about changing the z to c so you get cervecita