Russian Grammar Video: Diminutive Nouns in Russian

Posted on February 1st, 2013
Diminutive Nouns in Russian

Солнце-солнышко
Image by Nemo on Pixabay

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and it’s time to  talk about the diminutive nouns. Diminutive nouns can be used as the terms of endearments in Russian. In today’s video lesson we will talk about the different meanings of the Russian diminutives, and you will learn how to form diminutive nouns in Russian. Let’s do it!

Here is the video lesson:

Meaning of the Diminutive

Diminutive forms of the Russian nouns are formed by adding a suffix to the stem of the noun.
Here is an example:
Чай-чаёк
Таня-Танюша (learn more about Russian names)

Diminutive suffixes can denote:

  • Smallness
  • Affection
  • Irony
  • And even disparagement

In the case when a diminutive expresses several meanings, the meaning of the diminutive phrase will depend on the context.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Russian diminutive nouns

Сынок, садись и кушай.
Image by Nemo on Pixabay

1. The first example is with the diminutive noun “стульчик”:
Малыш, садись на свой стульчик.
This is something that a Mom would say to a little boy, and from the context we can see that the chair she mentioned is small. This means that in this case, the diminutive “стульчик” denotes smallness.

Here is another way to use Russian diminutive “стульчик”:
Ой, какой симпатичный стульчик!
From the context we don’t know whether it’s a small or big chair, but the adjective “симпатичный” is telling us that the speaker liked the chair. In this case, the diminutive “стульчик” denotes affection.

2. Here is another example, using the diminutive noun “сынок”:
Сынок, садись и кушай.
Sounds like Mom is telling to her son to sit down and have something to eat. From the context we can understand that she is expressing affection for her son by using the Russian diminutive “cынок”.

Here is another example using the same diminutive “cынок”:
Конечно, его повысят, ведь он сынок босса.
From the context we can see that the speaker expresses her disparagement by using the diminutive “cынок”.

As you can see, some diminutives denote only one meaning, such as smallness, or affection, while others may slightly change their meaning depending on the context.

The diminutives are very popular  in Russian language, this is why I strongly recommend that you listen to Russian songs, watch Russian movies and practice Russian with native speakers.

Now, let’s talk about some of the suffixes in a little more detail.

Masculine Diminutives:

These are some of the suffixes you might come across when forming masculine diminutives in Russian. These suffixes can express smallness, affection, irony, disparagement, or they can even form the nouns with independent meanings. The meaning of the diminutive noun will depend on the context.

1. Suffix –ец
Брат – братец
Вопрос – вопросец

2. Suffix –ик
Палец – пальчик
Самолёт – самолётик
Мяч – мячик

3. Suffixes –ок, -ек, -ёк
When forming diminutives with Russian suffixes –ок, -ек, -ёк, you need to remember that consonants –г, -к, -х undergo mutation:
г changes to ж
к changes to ч
х changes to ш

A couple of examples:
Пирог – пирожок
Старик – старичок

Russian diminutive divanchik

Диван – диванчик
Image by Nemo on Pixabay

Nouns ending in –ь or –й take ending -ёк
Пень – пенёк
Чай – чаёк

4. Suffixes -очек, -ечек, -ёчек:
Друг – дружочек
Пень – пенёчек.

5. Suffix –чик
Suffix –чик is affixed mainly to the nouns ending in: -л/-ль, -н, -р, -й, -ф:

Диван – диванчик
Стул – стульчик

Feminine Diminutives:

1. Suffix –ица
Вода – водица
Сестра – сестрица

2. Suffix –ичка
Вода – водичка
Сестра – сестричка

3. Suffix –ка

Russian diminutve pivtso, pivo

Пиво – пивцо
Image by Nemo on Pixabay

When forming diminutives using suffix –ка, remember that consonants –г, -к, -х and –ц undergo mutation:
г changes to ж
к to ч
х to ш
ц to ч

Посуда – посудка
Рука – ручка
Книга – книжка

4. Suffix –очка, -ечка
Минута – минуточка
Книга – книжечка

Neuter Diminutives:

1. –ико
Колесо – колёсико
Плечо – плечико

2. –ко
When forming diminutives with –ко, you need to remember that
к will change to ч
х to ш
ц to ч

For example:

Брюхо – брюшко
Облако – облачко

3. –цо, -це, -ецо
Suffixes -цо, -це appear after a single consonant, and suffix –ецо appears after a double consonant, for example:
Пиво – пивцо
Письмо – письмецо

Other Diminutive Suffixes in Russian

These suffixes can be used with masculine, feminine or neuter nouns and they denote affection:

1. -ушка/ -юшка and –онька/-енька
Печенье – печенюшка
Юля – Юленька

2. –ышек, -ышко
Солнце – солнышко
Горло – горлышко

4. –ашка
Expresses slight disparagement or endearment depending on the context:
Старик – старикашка
Морда – мордашка

5. Suffixes –онка and -ёнка usually express disparagement:
Мальчик – Мальчонка

Except for сестра-сестрёнка noun «сестрёнка» denotes affection.

6. And lastly, suffixes –ишко and –ишка denote irony or disparagement depending on context:
Дом – домишко
Шалун – шалунишка

I hope that you don’t feel overwhelmed after seeing all these suffixes! Please don’t worry about memorizing them all at once, they are here for you to understand how the diminutive nouns are formed  in Russian.  I would recommend learning them  step by step, and practicing as much as you can. A great way to learn any language is by listening to the native speakers, so make sure to listen to Russian songs and try to sing along, watch Russian videos on YouTube (check out my article about 5 YouTube channels that will help you learn Russian), or watch movies in Russian, and listen and talk to a native Russian speaker.

This lesson is based on A Comprehensive Russian Grammar by Terence Wade. If you are looking for a great Russian grammar text book, I strongly recommend this book!

Here is a little exercise:  please name three your favourite diminutive nouns in Russian and leave a comment below.

Have fun learning Russian! 🙂

Viktoria.

  1. Luis

    What’s the dimunitive in russian for “Little Kiss”, thanks, and does somebody know where to find in the web a large list of diminutives and augmentatives in russian, in advance!

  2. justlooking12313

    Two affectionate diminutives I’m wondering how to translate:(1) What’s the Russian word for a “little hug”?(2) How would you describe someone (a pet or small child, for instance) as a “cuddly little thing”?

    • Irina

      hug – I have no knowledge of such use for this word. you don’t say give me a little hug in russian, literally:)

      cuddly little thing – there are many different ways to convey this meaning, depending on the context, not always using the dimunitive suffix on the word itself, sometimes, you can use the diminutive on the adjective describing your word or use a slang word diminutive- лапочка, мимими etc.

  3. Majed Zouhairy

    well спасибо is pronounced as spasiba and its ё and о which are pronounced almost the same and in most cases people write е instead of ё so that is the source of your confusion. examples: ёлка (yolka = like a pine tree always green) облако (oblaka=cloud)

  4. Josip Čondić

    Can someone explain to me why ˝e and o˝ are not always pronnounced the same,for example ˝o˝ in спасибо is more of an ˝a˝ right ?

    • Irina

      It is a phonetic issue. It is easier for a Russian speaker to “soften” the a to o and the o to a when the letter appears in a cerain place in the word (not in OblAkA, for example). But, in certain areas of Russian, they do pronounce o as o, it is an older phonetic form, if I’m not mistaken.

  5. Josip Čondić

    What i don’t understand why ˝E˝ and ˝O˝ are not always pronnounced the same,i hear ˝o˝ sometimes pronnounced as ˝a˝ .Anyone care to explain for me please ? Thanks

  6. Khalil Ibrahim HABASH.

    Balshoy spaciba

  7. มงคล ธงชัยธนาวุฒิ

    or Дурочка – durachka

  8. มงคล ธงชัยธนาวุฒิ

    Дурак = Дурачок (diminutive)-Durachok

  9. ColKorn1965

    My girlfriend calls me “Idiot”, so what’s the diminutive for that in Russian?

  10. Dardo Bagnis

    Its a wonderful video. A little bit complex, but wonderful. Thank you very much.

  11. navid shafaii

    We love you and Russian after the king English

  12. Érika da Silveira Batista

    Ванюшка, Катюша, Саша.

  13. Mr Wp

    I’ve always loved how Russians use diminutive forms for their proper names. For example name Юлия.And the diminutives such as Юленька, Юлька or Юлечка. Makes the word sound so much sweeter!

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