Suffissi Alterativi

Suffissi Alterativi are suffixes in Italian that change partly the meaning of the world, giving a different evaluation to it. Unlike the Derivational morphemes, they don’t change the class of the word. Sometimes the root of the word changes to “accomodate” the suffix There are 5 types of suffixes, which sometimes overlap in the use and meaning.

Accrescitivi = Increasing. The suffix is -one. Sometimes used also as endearments.

  • Naso (nose) - Nasone (big nose)
  • Cane (dog) - Cagnone or Cagnolone (big dog)

Attenuativi = mitigating. There are several suffixes.

  • -iccio (adj) = malato (sick) - malaticcio (sickly) 
  • -icchiare/ -acchiare/-ucchiare (verb) = cantare (sing) - canticchiare (hum)
  • -ettare/-ottare (verb) = parlare (talk) - parlottare (mutter)
  • -erellare/-erellare/-arellare (verb) = giocare (play) - giocherellare (fiddle, play around)

Diminutivi = Decreasing, diminishing. Most of them can also be used as endearments. The most used are  -etto, -ino, -ello. You can use them also on names, as endearments. 

  • chiesa (church) - chiesetta (small church)
  • paese (country, village) - paesino (village)
  • vino (wine) - vinello (light wine)
  • Giorgio - Giorgino

You can combine these suffixes, by adding -ino to the others to have a double suffix. E.g. foglio - foglietto - fogliettino 

And sometimes you can find the infixes -ic- and -ol- before -ino and -ello.

  • posto (place) - posticino (little place, spot)
  • topo (mouse) - topolino (little mouse)

Other suffixes are:

  • -otto = used often with baby animals Tigre (tiger) - Tigrotto (tiger cub), but can also be derogatory as in Stupidotto (dummy)
  • -acchiotto = Orso (bear) - Orsacchiotto (teddy bear) [!Attention, a baby bear is an Orsetto]
  • -uccio = can be both endearing as in Caldo (heat) - Calduccio (warmth) or derogatory as in Impiegato (clerk) - Impiegatuccio (poor, boring clerk)
  • -uzzo = variant of -uccio, often found in crystallized form in some names like Via (street) - Viuzza (alley), Pietra (stone) - Pietruzza (tiny stone)
  • -icchio and -ucolo = rare, used with derogatory meaning like in Avvocaticchio or Professorucolo (“a meaningless, petty lawyer/professor”)
  • -icciolo, -(u)olo, -iciattolo = rare. Porto (harbor, dock) - Porticciolo (small dock, marina), Mostro (monster) - Mostriciattolo (little monster)

Peggiorativi or Spregiativi = derogatory. The most common are -accio (also in the form of -azzo) and -astro

  • Donna (woman) - Donnaccia (lit. bad woman, usually a prostitute)
  • Ricco (rich) - Riccastro (rich, spoiled man)
  • Amore (love) - Amorazzo (bad, short, easy love)

Some words that were born as derogatory now have lost that meaning.

  • Figlio (son) - Figliastro (stepson)
  • Fratello (brother) - Fratellastro (half-brother)
  • Bianco (white) - Biancastro (off-white, white-ish)

In colloquial terms, the suffix -azzo can be used also ironically as an increasing suffix, as in Panino (sandwich) - Paninazzo (big, “bad” sandwich)

Vezzeggiativi = endearments. They’re the same as the Diminutivi. Mostly -ino, -etto and -ello, but also others listed above.