Anyone who knows a little about Spanish and its characteristics knows that it is a dynamic language. One of the most peculiar and sometimes confusing features is the use of diminutives and augmentatives. Is it the same to say “perrito” as “perrote”? What about “casita” or “casota”? We from iNMSOL want to explain the differences and their meanings. Come on let’s go!


Diminutives: not only little things 

Diminutives, these little suffixes such as “-ito,” “-illo,” “.ín,” not only indicate greatness, but also affection, intimacy, and including a hint of irony. We can distinguish between connotative and denotative value depending on the meaning we want to express.

  • Greatness: The most common, right? “Pajarillo” (small bird), “manito” (small hand).
  • Affection: This is when it gets funny. “Abuelita” can refer to your grandmother, regardless of her size, but it is said to express affection toward her.
  • Irony: Sometimes, diminutives can get a little clever. Saying “a momentito” can mean that you will take longer than expected.

Accretion: not just big things

On the other side of the ring, augmentatives, such as “-ote” or “-ón,” give a feeling of greatness, but they can have other nuances as well. 


Greatness: this is the most obvious one. “Ratón” (big rat), “sillón” (big chair).

Contempt or joke: This is where the augmentatives get interesting. “Listillo” could refer to someone who thinks he is smart but is not very smart. 

Exaggeration: Haven’t you ever said “tardón” when someone arrives very late? That’s the charm of augmentatives.


How are these suffixes formed?


Well, one must proceed with caution. Although there are rules, Spanish is quite playful and has its exceptions. Don’t be discouraged, though; we’ll leave a guideline here: 


Most common diminutives:

“-ito/a”: Amigo -> amiguito.

“-illo/a”: Casa -> casilla.

“-ín/a”: Ratón -> ratoncito.

Most common accretives:

“-ón/a”: Lobo -> lobón.

“-ote/a”: Book -> librote.

“-azo/a”: Casa -> casaza.


FAQs: Clarifying diminutives and augmentatives


  • Can I use any suffix with any word? Wish you could. You can’t, though. Although there are general rules, the truth is that some are better than others depending on the word. One must proceed with caution because sometimes, changing the suffix changes the meaning, such as “pato” and “patito.”
  • Are there places where suffixes are used more? Of course there are! For example, in many places in Latin America, diminutives are used a lot to express affection and intimacy.
  • Are all accretives derogatory? Not necessarily. Although they may have an ironic undertone, they can also simply exaggerate or augment something. It all depends on the context!




Well, as you can see Spanish is a language full of nuances, language games and jokes. The diminutives and accrescitives in Spanish are some of these gems that make Spanish a living, dynamic and above all expressive language. So the next time you hear someone say “ratito” think about whether they are referring to the weather, or maybe they are just showing you some affection. See you guys next time! 


PS: And if you happen to get lost in the sea of suffixes, remember that context can always help you. Best of luck!


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