According to the Spanish Royal Academy of Language (RAE) diminutives are "suffixes denoting a reduction in size in the selected object (“piedrecita” – ‘pebble’) or charged with emotional intent (“Vaya nochecita” – ‘What an awful night!’).”
Although its use is mostly associated with children, it extends to women’s speech and is also used by men, perhaps not when addressing other men, but when communicating with children or women.
Generally, as described in the RAE, the derivation of words by means of diminutives adds information about either the smallness of the concept (“panecillo” – ‘bun’; “cucharilla” – ‘teaspoon’ ...) or has to do with emotional motivation, regardless of its size. Such is the case of:
- “chiquirritín” (‘tweeny-weeny’)
- pobrete (poor devil)
- fresquito (nice and cool)
- viejecito (a dear old man)
- sentadito (delicately seated)
In some cases, however, the use of certain diminutives serves to name new concepts, as shown in the following examples.
- silla (chair) - sillín (saddle)
- bolsa/bolso (bag) - bolsillo (pocket)
- paso (step) - pasillo (corridor)
- lentes (glasses) – lentillas (contact lenses)
- espina (thorn, fishbone) –espinilla (pimple)
In the Spanish language there are numerous diminutives which involve adding a suffix to the end of words: their use varies depending on the word and dialect area. They are most frequently added to a noun, but they may also appear with an adjective (“pequeñín” – ‘very little’) and, more rarely, to an adverb (“ahorita” – ‘right now’).
The most common derivational suffixes in Spanish are:
- -ito, -ita (and its variants –cito, - ecito, -ecita).
- -ico, -ica
- -illo, -illa
- -ete, -eta
- - in, -ina
- -uco, -uca
1) -ito,-ita: it is the most common suffix among Spanish speakers. Examples: "pequeñito", "pequeñita" ('little one').This suffix has several variants, such as cito (“jardincito”- ‘little garden’ instead of “jardinito”), –ecito, -ecita (“lucecita” – ‘wee light’ instead of “lucita”).
2) -ico,-ica: this is a very common suffix in areas of eastern Andalusia, La Mancha, Aragon, Navarra, Murcia and West Valencia.
Examples: "perrico" ('little doggie'), "ratico" ('a wee while').
3) -illo,-illa: Its use is very common in Andalusia and does not usually have emphatic or emotional connotations, unlike the suffix -ito, -ico.
4) -ete,-eta, is widely used in Asturias, Extremadura, Castille Leon, Andalusia and La Mancha: "amiguete" ('chum')
5) -in,-ina: Its use is very common especially in Asturias, Extremadura, Castille Leon and Western Andalucia: "pelín" ('trifle'). It is sometimes added to other diminutives such as "poco" - "poquito" - "poquitín" (‘a little bit’)
6) -uco,-uca. Cantabria is where this is most used: "playa" - "playuca" (‘little beach’) "casa" - "casuca" (‘hut’)