Appendix:Dutch diminutives

Dutch diminutives


Standard language


In Dutch, the diminutive is used extensively, have different meanings than size alone and is not merely restricted to nouns. It is the nuances of meaning expressed by the diminutive which make it peculiarly unique Dutch but also difficult to master for non-native speakers. It is a very productive, can change the function of a word and are formed by adding one of the suffixes -je, -pje, -kje, -etje to the word in question, depending on the latter's phonology:

  • -je for words ending in -b, -c, -d, -t, -f, -g, -ch, -k, -p, -v, -x, -z or -s: neef → neefje (male cousin, nephew), lach → lachje (laugh), schaap → schaapje (sheep)
  • -pje for words ending in -m: boom (tree) → boompje (but bloemetje if the meaning is bouquet of flowers; see below)
  • -kje for words ending in -ing: koning (king) → koninkje (the 'ng'-sound transforms into 'nk'), but vondeling → vondelingetje (foundling)
  • -tje for words ending in -h, -j, -l, -n, -r, -w, or a vowel other than -y: zoen → zoentje (kiss), boei → boeitje (buoy), appel → appeltje (apple), ei → eitje (egg), keu → keutje (billiard cue). In case of a single open vowel, when adding "-tje" would change the pronunciation, this vowel is doubled: auto → autootje (car), café → cafeetje (pub) (note the accent is lost because the 'ee' preserves the right pronunciation). The word jongen (boy) has an irregular diminutive, losing its ending -en: jongen → jongetje
  • 'tje for words ending in -y and for abbreviations: baby → baby'tje, cd → cd'tje, A4 → A4'tje
  • -etje for words ending in -b, -l, -n, -ng or -r preceded by a "short" (lax) vowel: bal → balletje (ball), kam → kammetje (comb), ding → dingetje (thing), kar → karretje (cart). Note that except for the ending -ng the final consonant is doubled to preserve the vowel's shortness.

A few words have several diminutives: kip → kippetje or kipje (chicken), rib → ribbetje or ribje (rib). One word has even three possible diminutives: rad → radje, raadje or radertje (cog). A few words have more than one diminutive, of which one is formed by lengthening of the vowel sound with a different meaning. Examples: gat-gaatje/gatje, glas-glaasje/glasje, lot-lootje/lotje), pad-paadje/padje

Dimunitives in -(s)ke(n)


Seen the historical usage and the widespread contemporary usage of dimunitives in -(s)ke(n) in Belgium, such dimunitives can be added to each Dutch noun. In such case, preference is given to the form -(s)ken, i.e. the form preserving the -n, as due to n-deletion in Dutch (a final -n can but does not need to be pronounced if preceded by a schwa) this would cover both the historical form -(s)ken as all contemporary Belgian forms -(s)ke and -(s)ken.

Dimunitives with independent meaning


Examples are ijsje (icecream) (lit. "little ice"), meisje (girl) (lit. "little maid") and bloemetje (bouquet of flowers) (lit. little flower). These all warrant their own lemmas rather than being non-lemma forms only.

Obsolete diminutives


Diminutives in -lijn are obsolete and no longer productive. In some cases usage of this diminutive suffix is still encountered, like (poetic) vogelijn (little bird). Entries using these obsolete forms can be created if usage is attested.

Given names


See: Dutch diminutives of given names.