Is there a diminutive form of adjective in English language?



My native language is Russian, and it has very many diminutive forms. For example: the Russian word "малый" means "small" or "little", and this word has a diminutive form "маленький"... but I have not found much information about diminutives in English. I heard something about the "-y" suffix, so is "littly" or "smally" a correct form?

Nyan Cat

Posted 2015-02-10T08:50:14.393

Reputation: 33

Welcome to ELL, Nyan Cat! You might want to ask this question at the Linguistics Stack Exchange, or at English Language and Usage, I guess they would love to answer. There is indeed the -y/ly form in English, and there is the rarely used suffix -kin found in several words (pannikin, ladykin, catkin, nipperkin..).

– CowperKettle – 2015-02-10T08:52:10.880

Here's a search for "diminutive" at ELU, here's a search for "diminutive" at Linguistics SE - you might want to look if there are possibly answers to your question among the finds.

– CowperKettle – 2015-02-10T08:58:12.233

2-ish is not a diminutive. I state that strongly. – None – 2015-02-10T19:45:24.757



A progression of adjectives related to size would be: small, tiny, teensy — "teensy" being even smaller than "tiny". Note that teensy would never be used in formal writing. Another example is cutesy. However, this morphological change is not a generalizable production.


Posted 2015-02-10T08:50:14.393

Reputation: 7 829


In English we have the suffix "-ish", which can be aplied to many, but not all adjectives. It means "like that, but not so much", so in a way it is diminutive. for example:

smallish, greenish, mannish, etc.

It would generally be understood this way if you coined an uncommon word with {adjective}+ -ish (say it with a distinct pause at the hyphen, so they can tell you know it's not a standardized word); For example:

funny-ish, clumsy-ish, huge-ish, cold-ish, round-ish, square-ish, young-ish

(there's a comedy on American TV called Black-ish)

but -ish can also mean "like that" (and not just a little bit) when attached to a few nouns: oafish, childish, churlish, foolish, foppish, rakish.

Or "a person or dialect from there": British, Swedish, Polish, Spanish

Brian Hitchcock

Posted 2015-02-10T08:50:14.393

Reputation: 8 181

1-ish does not signify either 1. much smaller than the average or usual; tiny. or 2. pertaining to or productive of a form denoting smallness, familiarity, affection, or triviality, as the suffix -let in droplet from – None – 2015-02-10T19:43:07.477

Did I say that it did? – Brian Hitchcock – 2015-02-11T05:55:11.037


I would say if you want to express a lesser degree of an adjective you say: a bit expensive, not very useful, little helpful, rather small. You don't do it by adding suffixes.


Posted 2015-02-10T08:50:14.393

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