Augmentative and diminutive forms

Augmentative forms indicate greatness in size or intensify the meaning of a word; diminutive forms, on the other hand, refer to something small in size, or express affection. Both are formed by tagging a certain ending onto nouns and adjectives.

Ambrogio è un ragazzoneun ragazzo alto

Ambrogio is a very tall boy.

Ho visto una farfallinauna farfalla piccola

I saw a very small butterfly.

The main endings we tag onto a word to make the augmentative form are -one/-ona.

Sto leggendo un librone di mille pagine. (il libro)

I am reading a very large book with a thousand pages.

Maddalena mi ha fatto un regalone. (il regalo)

Maddalena gave me a very big gift.

You will also sometimes see the endings -accione and -acchione

Buono bonaccione

Good →  a good-natured person

Matto →  mattacchione 

Mad →  a joker

Note: in some cases, a feminine noun can become masculine in the augmentative form.

Una donna un donnone

A woman → a very tall woman

Una testa un testone 

A head → a very large head

Una barca un barcone

A boat → a very large boat

The main diminutive endings are -ino/-ina, -etto/-etta, -ello/-ella and -uccio/-uccia.

La piscina è bellina. (bella)

The swimming pool is just beautiful.

Vuoi una birretta? (la birra)

Do you want a quick beer?

È un paesello di campagna. (il paese)

It's a little country village.

Che bel calduccio! (caldo)

It's nice and warm here!


  • the endings -ino/-ina can be preceded by -ol-

Il caneil cagnolino

The dog → the little dog

Il topo il topolino

The mouse → the little mouse

La testala testolina

The head → the little head

  • there are no fixed rules determining when the alternate endings are used: it just depends on the word in question.

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