I know I can use "doggie" to refer to a dog and that's a diminutive form, but what about words like "selfie" or "foodie" that aren't necessarily meant to diminish by adding an "-ie?" Is there a term for that kind of suffix?

  • The term for that sort of thing is Australian (-: – Jim Mack Apr 28 '15 at 21:27
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    Those are still diminutives. – Oldcat Apr 28 '15 at 23:49
  • @Jim I have an Australian friend which is why I asked this. – Forklift Apr 29 '15 at 0:35

The -y and -ie suffix is not only used for diminutives, but also for pet names (e.g. aunty) and other "cute" words. This last use hasn't made it into most dictionaries, but it's clearly how selfie relates to self. foodie appears to use this sense, and perhaps also some of the sense through which hip relates to hippie.

A more general term for these types of uses is hypocoristic.

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    In other languages that have more commonly used "diminutive" suffixes, like Dutch, the suffix is often also used in ways like this rather than to give a literal meaning of "little". – herisson Apr 28 '15 at 22:11
  • Aren't pet names and cute words diminutive? 'Selfie', 'foodie', and 'hippy' are not. – Mitch Apr 29 '15 at 12:32
  • Are they really? If you call a loved one by a pet name, are you minimizing them? – Barmar Apr 29 '15 at 12:33

It is an alternative spelling of y whose usage dates back to the 16th century:


  • alternative spelling of -y; now mostly of -y (3), but formerly of others.

  • Use with common nouns seems to have begun in Scottish with laddie (1546) and become popular in English due to Burns' poems, but the same formation appears to be represented much earlier in baby and puppy.


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    That explains the origins or the way it is spelled, but not necessarily the usage type. – Forklift Apr 28 '15 at 20:28
  • @Forklift - You are asking for a term for that kind of suffix not the usage type. As explained it is an alternative spelling to y suffix. – user66974 Apr 28 '15 at 20:40
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    I would suggest that "-y" is not a term for a kind of suffix, but rather an alternate spelling. "Diminutive" is a term for some usages of both "-y" and "-ie" suffix but does not encapsulate the usage in cases like "foodie" and "selfie." – Forklift Apr 28 '15 at 20:47
  • @Forklift - foodie : etymonline.com/… – user66974 Apr 28 '15 at 20:50
  • @Forklift - selfie : etymonline.com/… – user66974 Apr 28 '15 at 20:51

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