diminutive

noun
di·​min·​u·​tive | \ də-ˈmi-nyə-tiv How to pronounce diminutive (audio) \

Definition of diminutive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 grammar : a word, affix, or name usually indicating small size : a diminutive (see diminutive entry 2 sense 1) word, affix, or name
2 : one that is notably small : a diminutive individual

diminutive

adjective

Definition of diminutive (Entry 2 of 2)

1 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
2 : exceptionally or notably small : tiny a diminutive performer

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Other Words from diminutive

Adjective

diminutively adverb
diminutiveness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for diminutive

Adjective

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

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").

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”
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Some use her maiden name, Kingsbury, and her first name was alternately reported as Anne and Nancy—which Jane Austen fans will recognize as a diminutive of the former. Robert Clark, National Geographic, "'Lost' book of exquisite scientific drawings rediscovered after 190 years," 22 Apr. 2019 For parents that really want to find a deeper meaning, Jack was a diminutive of John from the Middle Ages. Asher Fogle, Good Housekeeping, "The Real Meaning Behind 29 of the Most Popular Baby Names," 6 Jan. 2016 The businessman asked to be identified by the diminutive of his first name, Abdu. Washington Post, "Syrians in Raqqa afraid, angry, frustrated as they rebuild," 8 Apr. 2018 Both Carnegie libraries in Unionville and Springfield were designed by Edward L. Tilton, in an Italian Renaissance Revival style, essentially rendering the Unionville library a diminutive of the Springfield library, Alderman said. Jordan Otero Sisson, courant.com, "Unionville Marks 100th Anniversary of Carnegie Library," 16 Aug. 2017 The restaurant in Alexandria where Mr. Youssef got his start was called Samakmak, an affectionate diminutive of samak, Arabic for fish. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, "A Different Kind of Alexandria Library, at Little Egypt," 2 Mar. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Kerber took the opening set in just 31 minutes and looked set to cruise to victory but the diminutive Davis, standing at just 5 feet 2 inches, stunned the German who took just three games from the last two sets. CNN, "Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, watches Serena as defending champion crashes out," 4 July 2019 It’s more on par with the diminutive Google Home Mini. courant.com, "CNET: The best smart displays of 2019," 3 July 2019 Whatever the cause, the whole thing was much more effective dramatically than musically, despite the best efforts of conductor Geoffrey McDonald in the diminutive pit. Washington Post, "At Wolf Trap Opera, Gluck and Ullman make for strange bedfellows," 27 June 2019 Marie Keever, Charlie’s diminutive mother, had little to say. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Mothers of two murdered boys help rededicate park with new plaque," 22 June 2019 Size is one way to distinguish between hulking apes and more diminutive monkeys: Male gorillas can weigh over 400 pounds, but monkeys max out at the 80-pound mandrill. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "A Primer to Our Planet of Monkeys," 12 June 2019 The diminutive Moccasin Reservoir was built in 1930 and is primarily used to regulate stream flows between larger reservoirs in the Hetch Hetchy system, which is managed by the SFPUC. Peter Fimrite, SFChronicle.com, "Moccasin Dam, which came close to failure last year, is repaired and working," 10 June 2019 Born with dwarfism in Jamaica as Richard Shaw, the diminutive performer started out as a warmup dance act for the original Geto Boys in 1986, performing as Little Billy, according to an Allmusic.com biography posted on the rap group’s website. Reuters, The Mercury News, "Bushwick Bill dies; Geto Boys rapper started out as warmup dancer," 10 June 2019 The most diminutive, a fragment smaller than a thumb, shows a female torso evoked in just a few muted strokes. Claudia Kalb, National Geographic, "Why Leonardo da Vinci’s brilliance endures, 500 years after his death," 12 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of diminutive

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for diminutive

Noun and Adjective

Middle English diminutif, from Medieval Latin diminutivum, alteration of Late Latin deminutivum, from neuter of deminutivus, adjective, from deminutus, past participle of deminuere — see diminish

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Statistics for diminutive

Last Updated

25 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for diminutive

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

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More Definitions for diminutive

diminutive

noun

English Language Learners Definition of diminutive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a word or suffix that indicates that something is small
: an informal form of a name

diminutive

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of diminutive (Entry 2 of 2)

: very small
linguistics : indicating small size

diminutive

adjective
di·​min·​u·​tive | \ də-ˈmin-yə-tiv How to pronounce diminutive (audio) \

Kids Definition of diminutive

: very small

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Comments on diminutive

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