Post Reply
Posts: 3850
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:06 pm


Post by Roby »

Taken from the website:


Some suffixes can be used with nouns, to indicate that
they are small, large or bad.
They are all gender- and number-sensitive, so they
have to match the noun's own gender and number.
This page will discuss diminutive.

Some inflections indicate that the noun is generically
small, in most cases referring to its actual size, but
sometimes having a more metaphoric sense (i.e. "cute",
"refined", etc).

The two most common diminutive suffixes are -ino /
-ina and -etto / -etta.
uccello = bird
uccellino = little bird
uccelletto = little bird

strada = road
stradina = small or narrow road
stradetta = small or narrow road

ragazzi = boys
ragazzini = small boys, children
ragazzetti = small boys, children

palle = balls
palline = small balls
pallette = small balls

Some nouns, among which the above-mentioned examples,
may use both inflections. Other nouns, though, usually
follow only one of the two. The other form would
either sound very unusual, or even wrong, because it
may have a bad sound, or sometimes it may have a
different meaning.
gatto = cat
gattino = small cat, kitten
(never "gattetto", which would sound horrible)

muro = wall
muretto = small or low wall
(the form "murino" is an adjective referring to mice!)

borsa = bag
borsetta = small bag, lady's bag
(the form "borsina" is very unusual)

pezzo = piece
pezzetto = small piece
("pezzino" is very unusual)

If you are in doubt, the inflection ...etto is the
most common of the two, and with few exceptions it may
be used even in those cases where ...ino is preferred.

There is also a third suffix for diminutive, -ello /
-ella, used with a fewer number of words.
albero = tree
alberello = small tree

asino = donkey
asinello = small, young donkey

porzione (feminine) = portion
porzioncina = small portion

Usually, words which take -ello may not take -ino or
-etto as an alternative.


When the noun's singular inflection is ...e (which may
be either masculine or feminine), the suffix behaves
as if the noun ended with ...o (for masculine) or ...a
(for feminine):
rete (feminine) = net
retina = small or thin net

dolore (masculine) = pain
doloretto = slight pain

lume (masculine) = lamp
lumetto = small lamp

chiave (feminine) = key
chiavetta = small key

It is very important to match the noun's gender,
because in some cases the other gender has a
completely different meaning:
casa (feminine) = house
casetta (or casina) = little house
casino = brothel (slang)

So gender can really make a big difference!!

For this reason, in forming diminutives the original
noun's gender should always remain unchanged:
pezzo (masculine) = piece, fragment
pezza (feminine) = cloth, fabric, rag
pezzetto = small piece
pezzetta = small piece of cloth

For some nouns, diminutive forms are not made by
simply adding the two suffixes, but require a
lengthening of the noun's root (additional parts are
shown in lighter blue).
cuore (masculine) = heart
cuoricino = small heart
(the form "cuorino" does not exist)

cane (masculine) = dog
cagnolino = little dog
(the form "canino" is the adjective referring to a
dog, or the name of the canine tooth)

porzione (feminine) = portion
porzioncina = small portion

vento = wind
venticello = slight wind, breeze

There is no fixed rule for lengthening the root of the
noun, when this is required, but in many cases (see
previous examples) -ic- is added before the ordinary


Some nouns are actual diminutives, although they are
considered as individual words because of their
meaning, in which a different idea than that of "small
size" may be expressed. In this case, their gender
does not necessarily match.
gallo (masculine) = rooster
gallina (feminine) = chicken (i.e. "small rooster")

spazzola (feminine) = brush
spazzolino (masculine) = tooth-brush (i.e. "small

pane = bread
panino = sandwich (i.e. "small bread")

carro (masculine) = chariot
carrello (masculine) = trolley
carretto (masculine) = cart

Students should be well aware of the fact that some
nouns end with ...ino, ...etto, and similar
inflections, without being diminutives at all. For
many of these "false diminutive nouns", other words
phonetically corresponding to their non-diminutive
form may exist, but they often have a different
gender, and their meaning is usually completely
pulce (feminine) = flea
pulcino (masculine) = chick

canto (masculine) = song, singing
cantina (feminine) = cellar

desto, desta = awake (adjective)
destino (masculine) = destiny, fate

casta (feminine) = social rank
castello (masculine) = castle

pasto (masculine) = meal
pastello (masculine) = crayon

For several words such as the ones above (especially
with -ello) a non-diminutive form does not even exist:

pisello = pea
("piso" does not exist)

cancello = gate
("cancio" does not exist)

catino = tub
("cato" does not exist)

giardino = garden
("giardo" does not exist)

All these nouns can be misleading, so care should be
taken not to misunderstand them.
However, these words too may take a real diminutive
suffix, thus appearing as "double diminutives":
cancello = gate
cancelletto = small gate

catino = tub
catinella (notice the change of gender) = small tub

gallina = hen
gallinella = small hen

Very few nouns allow a real "double diminutive":
pezzo = piece
pezzetto = small piece
pezzettino = (very) small piece

boccia = flask, decanter
boccetta = small bottle or flask
boccettina = tiny bottle, vial

There is another diminutive suffix, -uccio / -uccia,
which is used with a limited number of nouns, because
rather than "small" it usually carries a meaning of
"humble, poor, cheap", especially when -ino, -etto, or
-ello can be also used with the same word.
vestito = dress
vestituccio = humble, cheap dress in contrast with
vestitino = small, cute dress

cavallo = horse
cavalluccio = toy horse, hobby-horse in contrast with
cavallino = young, cute horse

bottega = shop, workshop
botteguccia = humble, small shop
This suffix does not often occur in spoken language
now, but it may still be found in written texts.

For an even more limited number of words, a further
diminutive suffix is -uolo / -uola, which has become
rather obsolete, since in most cases the common ones
already discussed may be used, and are now preferred
in common speech:
chiesa = church
chiesuola = small church (obsolete, but sometimes
found in written texts)
chiesetta = (same as above, currently used)

laccio = boot-lace, bind
lacciuolo = small lace, or metaphorically a limitation
laccetto = (same as above, currently used)

donna = woman
donnicciuola = trivial woman, or sissy (referred to a
male person)
donnetta = (same as above, now more common than the
previous form)


synopsis of diminutive suffixes

masculine singular feminine singular masculine plural
feminine plural
-ino -ina -ini -ine
-etto -etta -etti -ette
-ello -ella -elli -elle

less common suffixes
-uccio -uccia -ucci -ucce
-uolo -uola -uoli -uole
Last edited by Roby on Tue Dec 04, 2007 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 12:25 pm

Post by jefuchs »

donna = church ?
Posts: 3850
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:06 pm

Post by Roby »

jefuchs wrote:donna = church ?
Thanks Jeff.... It was error by the grammar site. Thanks for pointing it out.
"Per raro che sia, il vero amore e' meno raro della vera amicizia."

"As rare as true love is, it is not as rare as true friendship."
- François de La Rochefoucauld
Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest