How To Use Italian Suffixes

Learn how to use Italian suffixes for nouns and adjectives

Cypress Trees Growing On Grassy Field Against Sky
Cypress Trees Growing On Grassy Field Against Sky. Mats Silvan / EyeEm

Italian nouns (including proper names) and adjectives can take on various shades of meaning by adding different suffixes.

Even though it’s likely you haven’t thought about it, you’re familiar with many common Italian suffixes.

Here are a few you might have heard:

  • Parolaccia - Bad word ( -accia is the suffix.)

  • Benone - Really good ( -one is the suffix.)

  • Ragazzino - Little boy ( -ino is the suffix.)

Besides being fun to use, they also help you avoid using words like “molto - very” or “tanto - a lot” all the time.

In this lesson, I’ll help you expand your vocabulary and creatively describe nouns and adjectives all with learning just six suffixes.

6 Suffixes in Italian

To indicate smallness or express affection or endearment, add common suffixes such as

1) -ino/a/i/e

  • Povero (poor guy) → Poverino (little, poor guy)
  • Paese (town) → Paesino (tiny town)

E.g. Sono cresciuto in un paesino si chiama Montestigliano. - I grew up in a tiny town called Montestigliano.

  • Attimo (moment) → Attimino (small moment)

E.g. Dammi un attimino. - Give me just a small moment.

  • Topo (mouse) → Topolino (little mouse)
  • Pensiero (thought) → Pensierino (little thought)

2) -etto/a/i/e

  • Case (houses) → casette (little houses)
  • Muro (wall) → Muretto (little wall)
  • Borsa (purse) → Borsetta (little purse)
  • Pezzo (piece) → Pezzetto (little piece)

E.g. Prendo un pezzetto di margherita. - I’ll take a little piece of the margherita pizza. (To learn how to order pizza in Italian, click here.)

3) -ello/a/i/e

  • Albero (tree) → alberello (small tree)
  • Povero (poor person) → poverello (poor little poor man)
  • Gioco (toy) → giocherello (poor little toy)
  • Bambino (child) → bambinello (poor little child)

TIP: "Bambinello" is also used to represent baby Jesus in nativity scenes.

4) -uccio, -uccia, -ucci, -ucce

  • Maria (Mary) --> Mariuccia (little Mary)
  • Regalo (gift) → regaluccio (little poor quality gift)
  • Scarpe (shoes) → scarpucce (little poor shoes)
  • Affari (business/affair) → affarucci (small lousy business)

To denote largeness add

5) -one/-ona (singular) and -oni/-one (plural)

  • Libro (book) --> librone (big book)
  • Lettera (letter) --> letterona (long letter)
  • Bacio (kiss) → Bacione (big kiss)

TIP: You could add “Un bacione” to the end of emails or say it at the end of phone conversations with friends. Here are some other ways to end messages.

  • Porta (door) → Portone (big door)
  • Ciccio (chubby person) → Ciccione (big, chubby person)
  • Furbo (clever person) → Furbone (very clever person)

To convey the idea of a bad or ugly quality, add

6) -accio, -accia, -acci, and -acce

  • Giorno (day) → Giornataccia (bad day)
  • Ragazzo (Boy) → ragazzaccio (bad boy)
  • Figura (impression) → figuraccia (bad impression)

E.g. Ho avuto proprio una giornataccia. - I’ve had a really bad day!

Tips:

  1. When a suffix is added, the final vowel of the word is dropped.

  2. Many feminine nouns become masculine when the suffix -one is added: la palla (ball) becomes il pallone (soccer ball), and la porta (door) becomes il portone (street door).