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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

Example Sentences

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
And the Suns did lose twice to the Pelicans, whose diminutive Jose Alvarado pestered Paul like a relentless gnat. Dallas News, 5 May 2022 Three kid contestants battle it out in each episode to make mini dishes that pack real flavor and showcase their flair for the diminutive. Todd Spangler, Variety, 13 May 2022 Young Gerd, a common diminutive for Gerhard, found inspiration when the underdog West German team beat Hungary, at the time the world’s greatest team, to win the 1954 World Cup final. Washington Post, 17 Aug. 2021 The blushy pink bonhomie that infuses every aspect of the Little Em’s experience transforms cuteness from a condescending diminutive into something that’s aspirational and inspirational. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, 24 June 2021 But miraculously, nobody calls Baby Frank by a diminutive. Molly Young, Vulture, 9 Apr. 2021 Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a diminutive yet towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington. Mark Sherman, Fortune, 18 Sep. 2020 Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a diminutive yet towering women's rights champion died Friday at her home in Washington. Star Tribune, 18 Sep. 2020 Spring tends to feature the diminutive, the small-statured and the vertically challenged. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, 7 Aug. 2020
This is Linglong One, whose diminutive size is a drastic shift from the gigawatt-scale megaprojects that dominate nuclear energy today. IEEE Spectrum, 15 Jan. 2023 Over the years, signs – homemade and official – have appeared and disappeared, along with plastic dinosaurs, toy soldiers and Christmas ornaments on the park’s usual lone, diminutive tree. oregonlive, 5 Apr. 2021 But what of Banshees‘ diminutive four-legged scene-stealer now? Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Jan. 2023 There are several plants with this nickname, all tiny, floating plants such as Salvinia minima, a diminutive fern or the smallest flowering vascular plant, Wolffia spp. Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska Gardening And Growing, Anchorage Daily News, 12 Jan. 2023 The Bobcat is the diminutive version of Smith’s popular Wildcat, goggle-like sunglasses suited for wider male faces and ideal for windy, cold days. Stephanie Pearson, Outside Online, 30 Aug. 2022 About 17 relatively diminutive asteroids impact Earth every day, causing little to no disturbance. Manasee Wagh, Popular Mechanics, 23 May 2022 The difference was especially obvious in the spacecraft's wheels, which looked like monster truck tires compared to those on the relatively diminutive Sojourner rover. Eric Betz, Discover Magazine, 3 Mar. 2021 Beloved diminutive actor Jordan died Oct. 24 at the age of 67 from injuries suffered in a Los Angeles car accident. Jonathan Cohen, SPIN, 10 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'diminutive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 9 Feb. 2023.

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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