Diminutives and augmentatives in Spanish

The diminutives and augmentatives in Spanish are topics that everybody enjoys learning and -of course- using them! why? Just for the simple reason that all those words are closer to the way, native speakers communicate casually among themselves. by using elements like augmentative and diminutives, idioms, slang, etc you’ll sound more into the language and more in confidence to your skills. so, let’s get started!

Diminutives and augmentatives are suffixes added to words that change their meaning -a bit- adding more expressiveness, hyperbolizing, or giving an ironic tone.

diminutives and augmentatives in spanish by allspanish mx

In this post, we’ll review the augmentative endings and we’ll check how and why the speakers use those words and the context allows it.

Diminutives in Spanish

what is a diminutive and how they work?

A diminutive is a word built by adding a specific suffix to express a smaller size of the average. Exactly thanks to this reason, commonly, it’s used in a more playful figurative way. following this fact it might express:

diminutive endings in spanish by allspanishmx
  • Afection: «ya terminaste tu tarea, mijito?»( have you finished your homework, my little boy)/// «Carlitos está empezando el kinder» (baby Chuck is starting the kindergarden)
  • Irony: «te dolió poquito, no? ¿y esas lágrimas?» (did it hurt just a little, huh? what do those tears mean? haha)
  • Opossite meaning: «No estoy borracho, sólo tomé unas copitas» (I’m not drunk. I’m just got a few drinks») /// «venía manejando un poquito rápido, oficial. Lo siento, no vi la señal» («I was driving a little bit too fast, officer. I’m sorry I didn’t see the signal»)
  • With a friendly tone: «¿Cuándo vamos por el cafecito? (when are we going for coffee?)/// «Dame 5 minutitos y estaré lista» (give me 5 small minutes and I’ll be ready)

The most common diminutive endings are: -ito-ita/ -ico-ica/ -illo-illa/-ín-ina/ -uelo-uela.

Examples of the diminutives in Spanish:

1.- ¿Dónde está Albertito? (where little Albert is?) –> express affection

2.- «¡Estás encerrado en tu mundito y por eso no ves nada!» (you are into your little tiny world, and that’s why you’re blind) –>express irony

3.-«Tuvimos un problemita y lo tuvimos que despedir» (we had a small problem and th’s why he got fired» (in this case «a problemita» shows the oppositive meaning. probable it was not a minor thing)

4.- «¡No tan rápido, chicuela!» (No too fast, little girl)

5.- «Disculpa, ¿te puedo roban un momentito?» (Excuseme me, can you give me a -small- moment?)

mother's helper by diego rivera
mothe’r helper (1950) by Diego Rivera

PARÉNTESIS CULTURAL…

una de las formas más antiguas y amorosas es el uso extendido del vocablo «mijito» con el cual, las madres mexicanas han llamado por decadas a su descendencia. Es una forma cariñosa y su uso no es exclusivamente sanguineo, ya que, la mayoría de las señoras mayores lo emplean con gente joven y niños como una forma de brindar esa confianza familiar.

Augmentatives in Spanish

What is an augmentative in Spanish?


On the other hand, we have the augmentatives which are the opposite of diminutives in meaning. I mean, while diminutives express in a literal meaning small size, augmentative refers to a bigger size of the average. Augmentatives are used to indicate that something is large/big but as in the case of the diminutives, we’ll give them a more imaginative use.

augmentative endings in spanish by allspanishmx

The main augmentative suffixes in Spanish are: ota-ote/ -azo-aza/ ón-ona/ also we want to include the superlative ísima/ísimo.

As we enlisted it before with diminutives, speakers use these words in different context to express different ideas.

Mostly it depends of the noun yo’re speaking about. We use augmentatives:

  •  To show large size: «No había visto a Juanito…¡qué grandote!» (I’d not seen Juanito…¡how big he is!)/// «Ahí es la Conferencia. En el auditorio detras del edificio grandote de cristal» (the conference is there. Behind the big cristal building»)
  • Augmentatives to show intensity in a good way: «¿No has visto «sueño en otro Idioma»? pfft ¡es un peliculón!» (Haven’t you seen «dream in another language»? pppfttt ¡it’s an amazing film!/// «golazo!!!» (a huge score)
  • Sarcastic way: «¿Dónde lo conociste? Todo un tipazo…» (where did you meet him?» such a gentleman!/// «no pues, está bien grandote el terrenito»(well then, it’s very big the small land!)

Examples of the augmentatives in Spanish

1.- «La fiesta será en la casota de campo de su papá. ¡No podemos perdernos esto!» (the party is gonna be at the big camp house of her father. We can’t miss it!) shows large size

2.- No me gusta que hables con Manuel. ¡Es un buenazo para nada! (I don’t like you to talk to Manuel. He’s a ne’er do well) It’s used in a sarcastic way

3.-¿Y esa panzota, de dónde salió?» (where that enourmous belly came from?) showing large size!

4.- el jefe se compró un carro nuevo…¡y qué carrazo! (the boss bought a new car…and what a car! ) to show large size

5.- ¿te vas a comer ese pescadote? ( are you gonna eat that crazy big fish?) large size

If you want to read more about this topic and see more examples. We leave you a great explained article of baselang about the spanish augmentatives

The «negative» use of the augmentatives and diminutives

Beyond just the words, semantics play its role and allow us to express different intentions when we talk. diminutives and augmentatives in Spanish is a great example of this!

In the case of diminutives, they can be used to minimize or make fun of a specific situation. Are also used to decrease the importance of someone or something. See the following examples:

1.-«Los tuyos son problemitas, deja que te cuente los míos…» (yours, are little problems, let me start telling you mine)

2.- «Miren a Juanito, con 35 años yel bebesito todavía vive en casa de su mamita» (look at little Juna, 35 and the little baby is still living at his mother’s! ) make fun and minimize Juan

3.-«para mí, tu dinerito, vale nada» (your ugly money means nothing to me)

We’ll finish this article by checking the negative uses of the augmentatives. Augmentatives are used in a «negative way» with a sarcastic tone. «un tipazo» it might be a guy (tipo) who is really good at something or a guy who doesn’t inspire us confidence at all. «Un partidazo de soccer» it might be an amazing soccer game or all the opposite. Here the context will give to you the rest of the clues!

diminutives and augmentatives in spanish by allspanish ejempllos

WE’ve come to the end of this lesson about the diminutives and augmentatives in Spanish, and we wish you have enjoyed it! remember you can read more of the articles our team has written for you! If you wanna sound more like a native speaker, don’t forget to read our article about the multiple usesof the verbo hacer !

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