In Spanish, everything is "pequeñito"!

Arnaly Arriaga

If you've ever heard a Spanish speaker add "-ito" or "-ita" to the end of a word, you may have wondered what that's all about. Well, wonder no more! Diminutives are an important part of the Spanish language, and they're used for all sorts of reasons - to show affection, to be playful, and to just make everyday words a little more fun.
In Spanish, adding "-ito" or "-ita" to the end of a word usually means that you're making it smaller or cuter. For example, "perro" means "dog," but "perrito" means "little dog" or "puppy." It's kind of like adding "-y" to the end of a word in English - "doggy" is cuter than "dog." The rule is, you add the suffix “ito” to a male noun, “ita” to a female noun, “itos” to a plural male noun or “itas” to a plural feminine noun. My girlfriends from school were “las amiguitas” to my mom. No matter if we were already in high school! After all, I have always been and continue to be my mom’s baby! 😉

"Mijo" or "Mi hijo"?

But diminutives aren't just used for cute animals! They're also used to show affection. If you're a Spanish speaker, you've probably heard someone call their child "mijo" or "mija" - that means "my son" or "my daughter.” “Mi hijo” (my son) contracted together ends up as “mijo”, but with a little extra love thrown in. And if you really want to get affectionate, you can add "-ito" or "-ita" to the end of those words - "mijito" or "mijita" are extra special terms of endearment for your little one. You would never hear a Mexican mother talking to her 56-year-old son as “hijo” (son). He will be “mijito” forever and ever. 

¡Un cafecito, por favor!

Diminutives are also used in everyday language to make things a little more playful. If you're asking for a cup of coffee, you could just say "café," but if you want to make it sound cuter, you could ask for a "cafecito." Or if you are in Venezuela, you would ask for a “negrito”, which is a black coffee, essentially an espresso. If you're asking for a snack, you could say "merienda," but "meriendita" is just so much more fun to say.

El Gordo Mexicano.

Talking about “negrito”. You will most definitely hear people in Spanish speaking countries referring to their friends or loved ones as “negro” which means black, “negrito” meaning little black, “gordo” (fat) or “gordito” (little fat), and that is fine. They do it affectively. My best friend still calls me “Negra” or “gorda” depending on how she feels, and I am not dark skinned or fat. My grandmother was always affectionately called "La negra Matilde". She was dark skinned, but that was not the main reason to call her "negra". It was for love.

My Canadian husband almost had a heart attack one day he read an email from one of my cousins, where she called me “gorda”. He couldn't understand why family would do that to me. (LOL) Funny enough, he would always tell me the story of a restaurant in Florida he would always eat at called "El gordo Mexicano", which, according to him, had the best tacos he ever ate. To his amazement, he never realized "El gordo Mexicano" meant "The Fat Mexican" in a good way until I told him. In Latin-America, when you think of someone called "El gordo", you can count on the guy will  always be smiling! 

Should I be careful with these terms?

Diminutives are an important part of the Spanish language, and they add a playful and affectionate touch to everyday language. Whether you're using them to show love towards someone or just to make everyday things a little more fun, "-ito" and    "-ita" are an essential part of Spanish vocabulary. Just remember to use them wisely and sparingly - you don't want to accidentally offend anyone with the wrong word choice!

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