Spanish Suffixes: Diminutive, Augmentative, Pejorative and More!
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Spanish Suffixes: Diminutive, Augmentative, Pejorative and More!

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Spanish suffixes

In this article, we’ll be looking at different kinds of suffixes in Spanish. First we’ll talk about what they are, then we’ll look at the different types!

What are Spanish suffixes?

  • A suffix is pretty much just a few letters added to the end of a word.
  • Suffixes can alter the meaning of a word. It’s useful to know the common ones, because then you can work out the meaning of words you’ve never seen before. For example, if you already know the word ‘chico’ and you know the meaning of ‘-ito’ then you can easily work out ‘chiquito.’ (Note the spelling change from c to qu. This keeps the hard ‘k’ sound!)
  • Usage of suffixes varies over Spanish-speaking countries and their regions.

In this article, we're going to look at the type of suffix that changes the shade of meaning: diminutive, augmentative, and pejorative. Then we’re going to list a load of suffixes that group together certain types of words. Ready? Let's go!

How to form the Spanish suffixes

Pequeño -> pequeñito

Mejor -> mejorcito

El nieto -> el nietecito

La flor -> la florecita/la florecilla

La manzana -> la manzanilla

El cerebro -> el cerebrín

La palabra -> la palabrota

El favor -> el favorzote

There are loads of rules relating to this. Instead of trying to learn them all at once, try first to recognise the patterns you see as you go along.

Diminutive

A diminutive suffix is used to make a noun seem cuter, smaller, or less significant. There are several diminutive suffixes in Spanish, so let’s look at some of them one by one

-ito/-ita

-ito often denotes smallness.

Quiero un poco de leche.

I want a bit of milk.

Quiero un poquito de leche.

I want a little bit of milk.

Me gusta tu perro.

I like your dog.

Me gusta tu perrito.

I like your little doggo.

This suffix can be used to add a warm tone to a noun. It makes everything a little less harsh.

Está gorda.

She’s looking fat.

Está gordita.

She’s put on a little weight.

It can denote affection.

Voy a la casa de mi abuela.

I’m going to my grandmother’s house.

Voy a la casa de mi abuelita.

I’m going to my granny’s house.

A cool way to use this suffix is when you’re not really saying anything about the noun at all! You’re actually just using the cutesy language to convey a warm, friendly attitude to whoever you’re speaking to.

¿Alguna cosa más?

Anything else?

¿Alguna cosita más?

Would you like anything else?

 Colloquially, it can be used to add specificity to an adverb. This would sound odd to a Spaniard, and is much more common in Latin America.

Está ahí/ahicito.

It’s there/right there.

Detrás/detrasito.

Behind/right behind.

-ico/-ica

This is a versión of -ito that’s used in some Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Venezuela, as well as some parts of northern Spain.

-illo/-illa

You’ll hear this one a lot in Southern Spain. The most obvious use is to refer to something smaller.

Mira la flor.

Look at the flower.

Mira la florecilla.

Look at the little flower.

It can be used to decrease the importance of something.

Hubo un problema.

There was a problem.

Hubo un problemilla.

There was a small problem (easily solved, no biggie).

Sometimes we want to say something but we’re worried it might come across rude, so we use -illo.

¡Mentiroso!

Liar!

¡Mentirosillo!

Fibber!

It’s also used to portray affection.

No llores, chiquilla.

Don’t cry, honey.

Some nouns have -illo/-illa on the end to refer to a specific sub-type of that noun.

el cigarro/el cigarillo

cigar/cigarette

el bolso/el bolsillo

bag/pocket

la ventana/la ventanilla

window/ticket window

-uelo/-uela

This suffix is used to create a word for a smaller version of something.

el arroyo/el arroyuelo

stream/trickle

el paño/el pañuelo

cloth/handkerchief

-eto/-eta

When you end a noun with this suffix, you can be referring to a specialized version of it.

el camión/la camioneta

truck/light truck

-ete

This one can be used in the same way as -eto.

el caballo/el caballete

horse/easel (has similarities to a sawhorse)

Alternatively, it can add a bit of humor to what you’re saying.

el amigo/al amiguete

friend/pal

-ín/-ina 

This is used most in Asturias, Spain usually as an expression of affection. 

¿Cómo está el chiquitín?

How’s the little baby?

Augmentative

There aren’t that many augmentative suffixes in Spanish, and they all do pretty much the same thing, which is to show intensity or largeness. Quite often, there’s also a pejorative (insulting) undertone implying awkwardness, unpleasantness, or the idea of ~too much~.

ón/ona

Mi hermano ganó una fortuna.

My brother won a fortune.

Mi hermano ganó un fortunón*.

My brother won an absolute fortune.

*N.B. it becomes masculine rather than being ‘fortunona.’

-azo

As we mentioned, some augmentatives can have insulting undertones.

Tengo un catarro.

I have a cold.

Tengo un catarrazo.

I have one heck of a cold! (Too much cold!)

Confusingly, it can actually be used to show admiration.

Fue un éxito.

It was a success.

¡Fue un exitazo!

It was a great success! (Admirable/impressive level of success!)

Sometimes you can add –azo to an object to denote a physical clash with that object.

El puño/el puñetazo

Fist/punch

La cabeza/el cabezazo

Head/header (soccer)

-ote/-ota

Shows largeness, with pejorative undertones.

Hazme un favor.

Do me a favor.

Mi ex me pidió otro favorzote.

My ex asked me another massive favor.

-udo

Shows largeness, with pejorative undertones.

Mira su cabeza.

Look at his head.

Mira su cabezudo.

Look at his big head.

Pejorative

When we say that something is pejorative, we mean that it’s insulting or derogatory. It’s certainly not nice!

 Remember that diminutives and augmentatives can also be used in a nasty way. Use your common sense and you’ll be on the right track!

For example, if someone is referred to as una mujercilla rather than una mujer, it’s usually being used in a patronizing way. She’s not being called small, she’s being called unimportant.

Pejoratives include: -aco/aca,-acho/acha, -ajo/aja,-astro/astra,-uco/uca,-ucho/ucha, -ejo/eja.

el libro/el libraco

book/hefty old book

población/poblacho

population/rabble, plebs

escupir/el escupitajo

to spit/a load of spit

el médico/el medicastro

doctor/useless doctor

la casa/la casuca

house/shack

la casa/la casucha

house/shack

ese tipo/ese tipejo

that dude/that moron

Suffixes that show us the category of word

Apart from diminutive, augmentative and pejorative suffixes, there are loads more that group together certain categories of word, which helps a lot when you’re trying to understand unfamiliar vocab in your reading! Sometimes adding them changes one part of speech to another.

-miento/-mienta

This one turns a verb into a noun.

sentir -> sentimiento

to feel -> feeling

-mente

We can add -mente to an adjective to form an adverb.

suave-> suavemente

soft/smooth -softly/smoothly

reciente-> recientemente

recent-> recently

-oso/osa, -al

These usually give us adjectives from nouns.

escándalo -> escandaloso

scandal -> scandalous

cultura -> cultural

culture -> cultural

-ante

This suffix gives us a noun or adjective from a verb.

cantar -> cantante

to sing -> singer

emocionar -> emocionante 

to excite -> exciting

-ero/-era

This suffix can be used to show the place where something is kept.

sal -> salero

salt -> salt shaker

It’s also often used to refer to professions. There are several others that do the same thing: -dor(a)/-ista/-ario/a. Let’s look at some examples.

pan -> panadero/a

bread -> baker

cazar -> cazador(a)

to hunt -> (female) hunter

diente -> dentista*

tooth -> dentist

empresa -> empresario/a

businessperson

*Job titles with -ista are interesting because they always end in a! It would be incorrect to call it a dentisto or a pianisto, even if it’s a man. Stick to dentista and pianista.

-ería

Many of the words ending in -ería are names of types of shop/service. They can usually be traced back quite easily to a verb or noun.

pescar/pescado -> pescadería

to fish/edible fish -> fishmongers

pan -> panadería

bread -> bakery

pelo -> peluquería

hair -> hair salon

A lot of Spanish suffixes are cognates, meaning that the Spanish and English look very similar, which will help you recognize them! Check out the similarities in some of these:

poroso

porous

funcional

functional

violinista

violinist

actuario

actuary

panadería

bakery

Great job!

There are so many suffixes (more than we’ve been able to mention here), that it’d be foolish to try and learn them all at once. Why not try reading a paragraph from an article in a Spanish-language newspaper or novel, and circling all the suffixes you recognize? Happy reading!

About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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