Noun Suffixes in Spanish

Quick Answer

Looking for a truquito(little trick) to learn Spanish vocabulary quickly? Look no further! Learning common suffixes will help you create hundreds of new words with minimal effort, expanding your vocabulary exponentially.

This guide will teach you suffixes you can add to nouns to make new words in Spanish. Noun suffixes can be broken down into three categories: diminutive, augmentative, and pejorative.

Diminutive Suffixes

There’s no doubt you’ve heard words like burritoand mamacita, but you might not know that these words are prime examples of diminutive suffixes. Diminutive suffixes are attached to a noun to make it seem smaller, cuter, or less significant. For example, adding -ito to gato(cat) changes the meaning to kitty. Diminutive suffixes are also used when showing love/affection, pity, irony, humor, ridicule, politeness, or when talking to a child.

When using suffixes, don’t forget to follow the gender rules. Noun suffixes always agree with the gender and number of the noun in question.

-ito/-itaFor words that end in a vowel, drop the last vowel and add -ito, for example, niño> niñito. For words ending in a consonant (not n or r), attach -ito to the end.
-cito/-citaAdd -cito when the noun ends in an accented vowel, n, r, and sometimes e, for example, mamá> mamacita, pobre> pobrecito. In some cases, -ecito is added to the final consonant or replaces the final vowel.
-ico/-icaIn some countries, such as Costa Rica and Colombia, -ico is preferred to -ito when the last consonant in the last syllable is a t, for example, momento> momentico.
-illo/-illaUsed primarily in southern Spain. To use this suffix, drop the last vowel and add -illo. When the noun ends in an -e or a consonant, keep the last letter and add -cillo or -ecillo, for example, pan> panecillo.
-uelo/-uelaPrimarily used to indicate the small size or insignificance of a noun. To use this suffix, drop the vowel and add -uelo. Add -zuelo to words that end in an -e or a consonant and -ezuelo to words that end in y, for example, parque> parquezuelo.
-ín/-inaUsed in some areas of Spain to express affection, for example, tonto> tontín.

There are three major spelling changes when working with diminutives:

  • If the last consonant is c, change it to qu before adding -ito (chico> chiquito).
  • If the last letter is z, change it to c before adding -ecito (pez> pececito).
  • If the word ends in go or ga, drop the o/a and add a u before adding -ito (manga> manguita).

Let’s take a look at some examples!

Mis hermanitas son muy pesadas.
My little sisters are so annoying.
Voy a comprarme un barquito.
I'm going to buy myself a little boat.
Amorcito, no llores.
Don’t cry, sweetie.
Ayuda a esa viejecita a cruzar la calle.
Help that little old lady cross the street.
Espérate un momentico.
Hold on a moment.
No me puedo creer que hayas estado enfermo por tres semanas. ¡Pobrecito!
I can’t believe you’ve been sick for three weeks. You poor thing!
La mujercilla nunca salía de la casa.
The miserable little woman never left her house.
El reyezuelo fue destronado.
The kinglet was dethroned.
Me encantan mucho los chiquitines.
I just love little babies.

Augmentative Suffixes

Augmentative suffixes are added to nouns to indicate increased size or intensity, often with a negative connotation. They are basically the opposite of diminutives. Let’s take a look at the most common augmentative suffixes in Spanish.

To use these suffixes, drop the final vowel and add the suffix, or if the last letter is a consonant, attach the suffix to the end. Don’t forget that gender rules apply!

-azo/-azaUsed to increase the size, quality, or intensity of a noun.
-ote/-otaDepending on the speaker’s point of view, this suffix can also be used to express a large size in a positive or negative manner.
-ón/-onaMost commonly used to increase the size of physical characteristics. It is also used to emphasize the importance or greatness of a noun or to speak negatively about single individuals.

The suffix -azo has a special use. If you receive a blow to a particular part of the body, add this suffix to the body part which was hit to describe it. Note that gender rules do not apply in this sense, for example, cabezazo.

Here are some examples:

Me asusta ese perrazo.
That big dog scares me.
La obra de teatro fue un exitazo.
The play was a smash hit.
Me di un cabezazo sin querer contra la pared.
I accidentally hit my head against the wall.
Odio mi narizota.
I hate my huge nose.
No me reconociste porque llevaba unas gafotas.
You didn't recognize me because I was wearing big ugly glasses.
Se construyó una casona en el campo.
He built himself a huge house in the countryside.
No deberías llamar "solterona" a una mujer no casada.
You shouldn’t call an unmarried woman a “spinster.”

Pejorative Suffixes

Pejorative suffixes are used to refer to a noun in an undesirable or offensive way. Some of the suffixes already listed (as in -ote, -ón, and -uelo) can be used pejoratively, as well as those shown in the following table.

The translation of a noun used with a pejorative suffix depends entirely on context.

Suffixexamplepossible translations (depending on context)
lousy book/boring book/trashy book
filthy rich man/fat cat
dog Latin
ramshackle bed/rickety old bed
odd-looking creature/nasty animal

Other Noun Suffixes

Some common noun suffixes in Spanish don’t fit into any of the given categories, but they are good to know!

-al/-arUsed to denote a grove.
orange grove
-eríaUsed to indicate a place where something is sold or a profession.
shoe store
-ero/-eraUsed to denote a person who sells something or is in charge of something.
shoe saleswoman
-adasimilar to English suffix -ful

¡Hasta lueguito!(See you later!)