How To Master Spanish Diminutives In 10 Minutes

Spanish Diminutives

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Spanish Diminutives are something that you will likely come across at the early stages of being a Spanish student.

The most common use of a diminutive is to talk about a smaller version of something or someone, but you will also hear it used to express affection, emotion or as a term of endearment – not to mention being used to express contempt and sarcasm.

As you can imagine, diminutives are used in many different contexts, be it with friends or somebody that you barely know.

Furthermore, they are not only used with adjectives but also nouns and names. The rules we’ll explain later in this article will be the same whether it be a noun, an adjective or a personal name.

Let’s see some examples before moving on:

Adjectives

Original word English Diminutive English equivalent
Grande Big Grandecito Biggish
Feo Ugly Feito Uglyish

Nouns

Original word English Diminutive English equivalent
Carro Car Carrito Little car
Perro Dog Perrito Little dog or doggy

Personal names

Original word English Diminutive English equivalent
Carlos Carlos Carlito Little Carlos
Andrea Andrea Andreita Little Andrea
  Abuela Grandmother Abuelita Granny

When To Use Spanish Diminutives?

Spanish diminutives are words that when formed with suffixes, slightly modifies the meaning of an original word.

For example:

  • Lugar (place) v Lugarcito (little place)

In the above example, the Spanish suffix (cito) slightly changes the meaning of the original word, but on its own, doesn’t mean anything.

Spanish diminutives are most commonly used to:

1) Reduce the size or importance of a word

  • I love this little boy – Amo a este niñito
  • I just have a little problem – Solo tengo un problemita
  • Look how cute this little rabbit is – Mira que lindo es este conejito

2)  To express love or affection

  • Hello my love – Hola mi amorcito 
  • He is my sweet  grandpa – El es mi dulce abuelito  
  • I wanna go to the beach – Quiero ir a la playita

3) To express a derogatory remark, depending on the context

  • Tell the little boy to stay quite – Dile al niñito que se quede quieto
  • So, the missy has some time now – Entonces la señorita ahora si tiene tiempo

How Are Spanish Diminutives Formed?

Now that you know what Spanish diminutives are, in the next section, we will cover exactly how to form them.

1) Spanish Diminutives That End In – ITO -ITA

a. If the word ends with O, or A

In this case, we drop the last vowel, and change it to -ito or -ita , depending if it is a feminine or a masculine word.

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
School Escuela Escuelita Little school
House Casa Casita Little house
Cat Gato – Gata Gatito – Gatita Kitten
Brother – Sister Hermano – Hermana Hermanito – Hermanita Little brother/sister
Table Mesa Mesita Small table
Salad Ensalada Ensaladita Salad
Chicken Pollo Pollito Little chicken
Phono Teléfono Telefonito Tiny phone
Job Trabajo Trabajito Job
Bed Cama Camita Cot

Examples:

  • These toys are from my little brother – Estos juguetes son de mi hermanito
  • Put the baby in his cot – Pon al bebé en su camita
  • I brought you a salad for your diet – Te traje una ensaladita para tu dieta
  • Do you like these nightstands? – ¿Te gustan estas mesitas de noche?

b. If the word ends in a consonant, except for N and R

The word keeps the consonant (any other letter that is not a vowel like a,e,i,o,u) and you add the ending -ito or -ita

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Paper Papel Papelito Piece of paper
Tablecloth Mantel Mantelito Doily
Barrel Barril Barrilito Little barrel
Tree Árbol Arbolito Little tree
Poster Cartel Cartelito Little sign
Easy Fácil Fácilito Easy
Snail Caracol Caracolito Little snail

Examples:

  • Look how beautiful this little snail is – Mira que hermoso es este caracolito
  • It is very easy to do this. I teach you – Es muy facilito hacer esto. Yo te enseño
  • I wrote down the number on a piece of paper, and now I can not find it – Anoté el número en un papelito, y ahora no lo encuentro

2) Spanish Diminutives That End In -CITO or -CITA

a. Words ending in letter N, R, E, I, U or any accented vowel

This one is very simple – just add the endings -cito for masculine words and -cita for feminine words.

(notice that words which originally include an accent mark, do not include one when used as a diminutive)

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Coffee Café Cafecito Coffee
Pants Pantalón Pantaloncito Pants
Love Amor Amorcito Sweetheart
Soft suave Suavecito Softly
Young Joven Jovencito Youngster
Heart Corazón Corazoncito Little heart
Heat Calor Calorcito Warm
Woman Mujer Mujercita Little woman
Man Hombre Hombrecito Little man
Baby Bebé Bebecito Little baby
Violin Violín Violincito Little violin

Examples:

  • She is not a girl anymore. It’s all a little woman – Ella ya no es una niña. Es toda una mujercita
  • Do you want some coffee? – ¿Quieres un cafecito?
  • The concert was beautiful. The children had very small and cute violins – El concierto estuvo hermoso. Los niños tenían unos violincitos muy pequeños y tiernos

b. Words ending with Z

Drop the letter Z and add -cito or -cita

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Pencil Lápiz Lapicito Little pencil
Worm Lombriz Lombricita Worm
Nose Nariz Naricita Little nose
Rice Arroz Arrocito Rice

Examples:

  • I love your little nose – Me encanta tu naricita
  • For dinner I’ll just eat a little bit of rice – Para la cena solo comeré un poco de arrocito
  • I need some worms for my compost – Necesito algunas lombricitas para mi compost

3) Spanish Diminutives That End In – ECITO or – ECITA

For all the words that have one syllable (pronounced with one sound), their diminutives will be formed with -ecito or -ecita

The same rule applies to words that end with two vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) together, such as io, ia, ie etc.

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Bread Pan Panecito Little Bread
Feet Pies Piececitos Little feet
Salt Sal Salecita Salty
Tea Tecito Little tea
Flower Flor Florecita Little flower
Fish Pez Pececito fishy
Light Luz Lucecita Little Nightlight
Rain Lluvia Lluviecita Drizzling
Voice Voz Vocecita Little voice
Cross Cruz Crucecita Little cross
Serious Seria – Serio Seriecita –  Seriecito Little serious
Nuts Nuez Nuececita Little nuts
Boyfriend – Girlfriend Novio – Novia Noviecito – Noviecita Little boyfriend – Little girlfriend

Examples:

  • Your little brother has a girlfriend in his classroom – Tu hermanito tiene una noviecita en su salón de clases
  • There’s a little voice in my head telling me not to do it – Hay una vocecita en mi cabeza diciéndome que no lo haga
  • It´s cold, let’s drink tea – Hace frío, vamos a tomar un tecito
  • This little cross was given to me by my grandmother when I was born – Esta crucecita me la regaló mi abuela cuando nací

Spanish Diminutives: The Irregulars

As always, the Spanish language will throw us a couple of scenarios where we must deal with irregular words.

There are some Spanish diminutives which are formed differently and do not abide by the rules that we covered. These words are irregular in order to preserve the correct pronunciation when used with diminutives, as you will see.

1) Spanish Diminutives ending with G+vowel

When the word ends in -GA -GO -GUA, instead of just deleting the vowel and adding the ending -ito or -ita, we must also add the letter U after the G to smooth the transition and end with the correct pronunciation.

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Friend Amigo – Amiga Amiguito – Amiguita Little friend
Water Agua Agüita Little bit of water
Mango Mango Manguito Little bit of mango
Juice Jugo Juguito Little bit of juice

Sidenote: The word “agüita” is using an accent called “diéresis” better known in other languages as “umlaut” which indicates that the letter of that word must be pronounced in a different way. This accent mark can be found in many different words in the Spanish language.

Examples:

  • Why do not you invite all your little friends for a sleepover? – ¿Por qué no invitas a todos tus amiguitos para una pijamada?
  • Do you want some apple juice? – ¿Quieres juguito de manzana?
  • Can you give me water, please? – ¿Me das agüita por favor?

2) Spanish Diminutives ending in CO or CA

To create a diminutive for words ending in -CO or -CA, we must add the letters -QU before the endings -ito or -ita.

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Ship Barco Barquito Little boat
Fly Mosca Mosquita Little fly
Hammock Hamaca Hamaquita Little hammock
Kiosk, pavilion Quiosco Quiosquito Little kiosk
Mouth Boca Boquita Little mouth

Examples:

  • It was not a little boat, it was a big boat – No era un barquito, era un gran barco
  • I bought this little  hammock for my cat – Le compré esta hamaquita a mi gato
  • There are many mosquitoes in the garden – Hay muchas mosquitas en el jardín

Other Scenarios Where Spanish Diminutives Can Be Used

We already covered the main uses of Spanish Diminutives.

Once you dive into the world of Spanish diminutives (and converse with native speakers), you’ll notice that endearment or sarcasm are not the only contexts when diminutives are used.

1) Using diminutives to talk about time

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Now Ahora Ahorita Right now, later
Moment Momento Momentito  Little moment
Second Segundo Segundito  Little second
Little while Rato Ratito Little while
Afternoon Tarde Tardecita afternoonish
Night Noche Nochecita nightish
Morning Mañana Mañanita Early morning

Examples:

  • Right now I can’t talk on the phone – Ahorita no puedo hablar por teléfono
  • Just a second and I’ll be ready – Un segundito y estaré lista
  • We went to the market early morning – Fuimos al mercado en la mañanita

2) Using diminutives with adjectives

English Noun Spanish noun Spanish diminutive English equivalent
Fat Gordo – Gorda Gordito– Gordita Chubby
Ugly Feo – Fea Feito – Feita Uglyish
Short Bajo – Baja Bajito– Bajita Shorty
Alone Solo – Sola Solito – Solita Lonely
Little Poco – Poca Poquito – Poquita Little bit
Thin Flaco – Flaca Flaquito – Flaquita Skinny
New Nuevo – Nueva Nuevecito – Nuevecita Newish

Examples:

  • My shoes are brand new – Mis zapatos están nuevecitos
  • My cat is chubby – Mi gato está gordito
  • I turn on the radio, so I don’t  feel lonely – Yo enciendo la radio, para no sentirme solita

The use of diminutives varies by country, but in most cases, these are the most common forms. Either way, you will be safe, using the diminutives, whenever it is necessary to express affection, size.

Same word, different diminutives

As you converse with more and more native Spanish speakers, you may notice that some words have more than more diminutive and this varies across the Spanish speaking countries,

For example, endings -ito-ita can change to -ico -ica, also from -ecito – ecita to -cito -cita. In some places, native speakers use the ending -illo or -illa.

In cases like this, the meaning of the diminutive does not change – just the way it’s said.

I´ll show you some of the most common words in Spanish, and the different ways of saying them in diminutives.

English equivalent Spanish Noun -ITO – ITA -CITO -CITA -ECITO -ECITA -ICO -ICA ILLO – ILLA
Mom Mamá Mamita Mamacita
Dad Papá Papito Papacito
Shoe Zapato Zapatito Zapatico Zapatillo
Little while Rato Ratito Ratico
Moment Momento Momentito Momentico Momentillo
Bread Pan Pancito Panecito
Fish Pez Pececito Pececillo
Light Luz Lucecita Lucecilla
Baby Bebé Bebito – Bebita Bebecito – Bebecita
Duck Pato Patito Patico
Smart / Ready Listo Listito Listico Listillo

Sidenote

In some cases, diminutives can add some kind of sexual context, for example, mamacita, papacito, bebecita and bebecito can be used as flirting material in some regions and countries. These words are considered a bit derogative among some Spanish native speakers.

Spanish Diminutives: Exercises

Write the correct diminutive for every word. Scroll down for answers.

  1. Corn / Maíz: ______
  2. Animal / Animal: _______
  3. Fish / Pez: _______
  4. Princess / Princesa: _______
  5. Cup / Taza: _______
  6. Watch / Reloj:_______
  7. Shoe / Zapato: _______
  8. Skirt / Falda: _______
  9. Cake / Torta: _______
  10. Cream / Crema: _______
  11. Dessert / Postre: _______
  12. Square / Plaza: _______

Answers

  1. Maicito
  2. Animalito
  3. Pececito
  4. Princesita
  5. Tacita
  6. Relojito
  7. Zapatito
  8. Faldita
  9. Tortita
  10. Cremita
  11. Postrecito
  12. Placita
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