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di·​min·​u·​tive də-ˈmi-nyə-tiv How to pronounce diminutive (audio)
grammar : a word, affix, or name usually indicating small size : a diminutive (see diminutive entry 2 sense 1) word, affix, or name
: one that is notably small : a diminutive individual


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grammar : indicating small size and sometimes the state or quality of being familiarly known, lovable, pitiable, or contemptible
used of affixes (such as -ette, -kin, -ling) and of words formed with them (such as kitchenette, manikin, duckling), of clipped forms (such as Jim), and of altered forms (such as Peggy)
compare augmentative
: exceptionally or notably small : tiny
a diminutive performer
diminutively adverb
diminutiveness noun

Did you know?

Just as diminish means "to grow smaller", diminutive means "very small". When writing about language, diminutive as both an adjective and a noun refers to particular endings and the words made with them to indicate smallness. In English, such endings include -et and -ette (piglet, dinette, cigarette, diskette) as well as -ie and -y (doggy, bootie, Bobby, Debbie). However, diminutives are more common in many other languages. Outside of language, diminutive is used for many things, including people ("She noticed a diminutive figure standing shyly by the door"), but often not very seriously ("We were served some rather diminutive rolls").

Choose the Right Synonym for diminutive

small, little, diminutive, minute, tiny, miniature mean noticeably below average in size.

small and little are often interchangeable, but small applies more to relative size determined by capacity, value, number.

a relatively small backyard

little is more absolute in implication often carrying the idea of petiteness, pettiness, insignificance, or immaturity.

your pathetic little smile

diminutive implies abnormal smallness.

diminutive bonsai plants

minute implies extreme smallness.

a minute amount of caffeine in the soda

tiny is an informal equivalent to minute.

tiny cracks formed in the painting

miniature applies to an exactly proportioned reproduction on a very small scale.

a dollhouse with miniature furnishings

Examples of diminutive in a Sentence

Noun the diminutives “-ette” and “kitchenette” dik-diks, the diminutives of the antelope family Adjective a radio with a diminutive set of speakers the diminutive suffixes “-ette” and “-ling”
Recent Examples on the Web
Yana added, referring to Navalny by a diminutive of his first name. USA TODAY, 17 Feb. 2024 Dimon is a diminutive for Dmitry. Joseph De Avila, WSJ, 11 Mar. 2022 See all Example Sentences for diminutive 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'diminutive.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English diminutif, from Medieval Latin diminutivum, alteration of Late Latin deminutivum, from neuter of deminutivus, adjective, from deminutus, past participle of deminuere "to lessen" — more at diminish

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of diminutive was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near diminutive

Cite this Entry

“Diminutive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diminutive. Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
di·​min·​u·​tive də-ˈmin-yət-iv How to pronounce diminutive (audio)
: a diminutive word, name, or affix
: a diminutive object or individual


2 of 2 adjective
: indicating small size and sometimes the state or quality of being lovable or pitiful
the diminutive suffixes "-ette" and "-ling"
the diminutive noun "duckling"
: extremely small : tiny
diminutively adverb
diminutiveness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on diminutive

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