DIMINUTIVES are forms of words, chiefly of substantives, in which the primitive notion has become lessened or diminished, as hillock=a little With littleness is associated the idea of neatness, and also of needing protection; hence D. are used as terms of endearment; sometimes they imply contempt. There is perhaps no language without D.; and the most common method of formation is by the addition of a syllable. This, however, is not the only method; tip from top, by attenuating the vowel, and kid from goat, are as genuine D. as hillock. The commonest of the English diminutive affixes are ock, kin, el or le, which are of Gothic origin, and et or let, of classical origin; as in bullock, lambkin, kernel (little corn), lancet. According to Dr. Latham, the termination ling, or rather ing, was originally patronymic; "Ida was the son of Eoppa," was expressed in Anglo-Saxon by Ida was Eapping. From the notion of the filial relation, the transition is easy to that of littleness and endearment, as in darling, duckling. Con tempt predominates in shaveling (a monk) and others.
D. often occur in proper names; Perkin is the diminutive of Peter, Jenkin of John. These have settled down into permanent and distinct names; but in the language of fond ness and familiarity, Charles becomes uharley, John, Johnny, etc. In Lowland Scotch, this form of diminutive is not confined to proper names, but is applied to every object, animate or inanimateŚladdie, horsie, wifie, firie. Sometimes one diminutive affix is joined
to another, as lassoek, lassockie; and in expressions like a wee, wee bit horsilcie, the diminu tion is carried to the fifth degree. It is principally in the mouths of the people and in friendly familiarity that these diminutive forms are most common; and some languages and dialects are rich in them beyond others. Italian is remarkable in this respect, especially the Tuscan dialect: easa, house, becomes casarella, little house, and casarellina, pretty little house; from fratello, brother, which is itself a diminutive of the Lat. freer, chil dren, it is said, may be heard forming such fond names as fratellinucciettinetto. The affectionateness and bonhomie of the Germans expresses itself largely in this form; tater, father, becomes' rillerehem, dear father; and even the pronoun du, thou, is made into duchen, and deli.
D. are not confined to nouns: whitish is the diminutive of the adjective tehite; and tipple, scribble. dandle are examples of diminutive verbs. Opposed to D. are ALTGatEhT ATtVES, which abound in the Romanic languages, especially in Italian, and express not only largeness, but coarseness and vulgarity; casotta is a large house; eavallaccio, worthless horse. Our word balloon, which is of foreign origin, is of this form, and means a large ball. Such words as drunkard, braggart, buzzard, seem to be genuine English augmentatives.