In some languages, there are false diminutives, by which I mean words which have diminutive suffixes but don't express either small size or affectionately emotive meanings.

For example, in Italian, -ina is a feminine diminutive suffix; for example, strada is a road, and a stradina is a narrow road. But cantina (cellar) is not a diminutive of canto (song). Similarly, in Dutch, tussendoortje (snack) is not a diminutive of tussendoor (in between), though it has the -je diminutive ending. And in German, there is the Verselbständigte Diminutive, so the -chen is not (or no longer) diminutive in words like drachen (dragon) or mätz­chen (foolish antics).

Does English have false diminutives as well?

  • 3
    You should give some examples.
    – rogermue
    Feb 5, 2016 at 8:45
  • 1
    You will find this question and its answer interesting, Diminutive forms in English..
    – user140086
    Feb 5, 2016 at 9:10
  • The question How are diminutives formed in recent English words? convenientlly lists suffixes often marking diminutives (in either sense: a small version of the referent, or a pet name for the referent). But I don't think the term 'false diminutive' is standard in analysis, as English affixes are well known to code for multiple senses. Feb 5, 2016 at 11:56
  • Are there any diminutives in English that are used as diminutives universally enough that a non-dimunitive use of them is worthy of being called false? The most common diminutive ending in English may be -y or _iedoggie, kitty, piggy, laddie, lassie, missy, hanky — but there are so many non-dimunitives ending in -y and -ie that you can hardly call them false. Feb 6, 2016 at 15:31
  • @PeterShor: perhaps the best way to distinguish is by if it is historically a diminutive suffix, although this requires some etymological research and the answer may not always be clear.
    – herisson
    Feb 6, 2016 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


There are some suffixes which can be used in more than one way and might be considered false diminutives. I admit I'm still not 100% clear on what you mean by this term. Here are a couple of examples.

-ette (or -et) is often used as a diminutive suffix (kitchenette, cigarette) but could denote a feminine form (suffragette or majorette) or something that is an imitation (leatherette).

-ling is a Middle English suffix that has survived in a few forms such as youngling or duckling. It can also denote association as in hireling or appear as a sort of orthographical coincidence as in "pie filling".

Hope this helps.

  • 2
    A fine answer to a question that needs adjusting. The terminology is probably inappropriate for English; is 'kitchenette' not a false 'femininitive' or 'imitative'? Feb 5, 2016 at 11:21
  • @AndyT You need to learn to distinguish between the normal usage and the 'word-as-a-word' usage of a word. Here, the quotes around kitchenette indicate the word-as-a-word usage. (Those round femininitive and imitative indicate non-standard terms.) Feb 5, 2016 at 11:54

A.I .Makarova was the first to use the term "false diminutives " in her bookМакарова А. И. Именная диминутивная система молдавского языка. (Дери- вация): дис. ... канд. филол. наук. Кишинев, 1970. According to her classification example kitchenette is a diminutive It is equal to a small kitchen but satinette,muslinette ,letherette are false diminutives Do you know any other false diminutives?

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