5 Spanish Diminutives That Make No Sense Whatsoever In English


I love the Spanish language.  I remember that when I first started learning it, it reminded me of water rolling over pebbles in a stream.  Then, when I started listening more carefully and stopped just being in love with it porque sí, I decided that the specific Catalan twang I was hearing each day was definitely much more metallic than bubbly:  Like a big brass bell being hit by a rotund monk.  THEN, I became acquainted with the thicker, more honey-like nuance of those from Galicia and had to work hard not to picture treacle rolling down their cheeks as they spoke, a task which was very difficult indeed.

Spanish is damn awesome.

But what I love most about it is when things just cannot really be translated into English for the freakin’ life of you.

Here in South America, what is very obvious about their particular take on el español is just how much they luuuuuuurve using diminutives.

(DANCEBREAK:  But first, yes, ok.  For anyone who’s not a language nerd or speaks their own language fluently and awesomely but doesn’t know the actual words for the things we use each day – no shame man…this was me, before moving to Spain – a diminutive is the cuter form of a word.  Like Sam/Sammy.  In English, we add -y a hell of a lot of the time.)

In Spanish, they make diminutives by adding -ita/ito and -cita/cito.  (Which makes me Erincita…yet the fact that no one EVER calls me that makes me think that I must just not be very sweet… *sigh*.)

A lot of the time, these cuter little words make sense, just as they would in English.  Like:

Un poco (a bit) to un poquito (a little bit).  It’s cuter, smaller ya see?

But sometimes, they don’t…which to my mind only serves to make them even better.

So here they are:

My favourite 5 Spanish diminutives that make no sense whatsoever in English

1)  Sopita (sopa = soup)

“Tengo sopita!  Sopitaaaaaaaa,” a waitress was screaming at the general public in Bolivia.  (Soup, getcha souppppp here!).

My mental spiel went like this:  “Hmmmm.  Do I want soup?  Well, Max isn’t here, so I’m free to eat transparent soup without ridicule.  No, but wait!  They only have little soup!  What happened?  Wasn’t the soup nourished enough as a baby??  Did it just never grow up as big and strong as its siblings?  Poor soup!!”

2)  Mañanita (mañana = morning or tomorrow)

“Nos vemos en la mañanita.” (See you tomorrow)…

…said my friend to me as we parted ways one afternoon.  Yeah, ok…we’ll see each other tomorrow, but in the little morning?  I don’t know if the laws of physics and I can manage that one.

3)  Segundito (segundo = second or in the context of a restaurant setting, your main dish)

“Qué quieres de segundito?” (What would you like for your main?)

Ummmmmm.  Am I only going to get a tiny, sweet little bit of my main?  Which part?  I hope it’s the meat bit…or at least, the part without that ugly looking wilted salad I can see in the fridge.

4) Cafecito (café = coffee)

“Tomamos un cafecito?” (How about a coffee?)

The first few times I was asked this, I thought that only espressos, machiattos or other such tiny baby coffees would be on offer.  Not so.  You can have a big ass pint coffee a la the dudes from Friends, feel sick as after finishing it, and still call it a cafecito.  Niceeee.

5)  Añitos (un año = a year)

“No sé, creo que vuelvo en un par de añitos,” (I don’t know, I think I’ll return in a couple of years).

My host in Ayacucho was saying this to her friend, explaining her mental process behind whether to go back to Lima or stay in her home town.  But – first, I’d like to know how she’s managed to create a mini-year to choose over the 365 day variety we’re so used to!  This would be a good opportunity for long term projects that you’re not soooo fond of completing, like say, paying off a mortgage.  I can imagine myself trying to convince a banker now:  “Yes, sir, I’d like to pay this off over 10 añitos rather than 20 años, please.  What do you mean?  Of course sweet little mini years exist!!”

Ohhh, Spanish.  I heart you.


4 thoughts on “5 Spanish Diminutives That Make No Sense Whatsoever In English

  1. You Made me laugh. Even, though i don’t use a lot of diminutives I just realize how most of them don’t make any sense; but once you understand them, you can consider yourself a verdadera Latinita, ha ha. Asta luegito 🙂

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Linda! It’s true, a lot of them don’t make sense – but they are adorable and really do pepper up the language. Thanks for reading 🙂

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