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diminutive

di·min·u·tive / diˈminyətiv/ • adj. extremely or unusually small: a diminutive figure dressed in black. ∎  (of a word, name, or suffix) implying smallness, either actual or imputed in token of affection, scorn, etc., (e.g., teeny, -let, -kins). • n. a smaller or shorter thing, in particular: ∎  a diminutive word or suffix. ∎  a shortened form of a name, typically used informally: “Nick” is a diminutive of “Nicholas.” ∎  Heraldry a charge of the same form as an ordinary but of lesser size or width. DERIVATIVES: di·min·u·tive·ly adv. di·min·u·tive·ness n.

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DIMINUTIVE

DIMINUTIVE.
1. An AFFIX, usually a SUFFIX, added to a WORD to suggest smallness (and, paradoxically, either affection or dismissal). In English, the diminutive suffix -ling is neutral in duckling little duck, affectionate in darling little dear, and dismissive in princeling little prince. Whereas the -ette in cigarette conveys smallness, in usherette it conveys femaleness and, generally, lesser status than usher.

2. A NAME, usually a nickname or hypocorism, that suggests smallness, affection, dismissal, etc.: Will, Willie, Willy (and, in baby talk, the double diminutive Willikins) and Bill, Billy as short forms of William, and willie as a euphemism for the penis. See CLIPPING, L-SOUNDS, SCOTS, SEXISM.

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