If you want to sound really Brazilian, we suggest you take a moment to study the phenomenon of the diminutive, this ubiquitous suffix to a noun, name or adjective which can emphasize affection, cuteness, irony and smallness to any subject. Masculine words ending in -o can become -inho, and feminine words become -inha. Read on to see these diminutives in action…
Nouns: You are running late, you friend is waiting for you at the bar alone. What do you say? “Desculpa Gabi, eu vou chegar em um minutinho”. This literally means, “I’m arriving in a tiny minute”. What it really means is, Gabi I haven’t showered yet, but when I arrive 45 minutes late I can just blame it on the traffic.
You are on a date at an expensive restaurant with a real “gatinha (the diminutive of gata which means pussycat or cute girl”) and you want to get the bill. After spending the next ten minutes trying to catch any waiter’s attention, and knowing that you’ve spent a lot of Reais (R$), and that it’s not going to be small, you do the weird sign-my-bill motion and ask for the bill “Posso pedir a continha por favor”, here the word conta becomes continha. If you decide to pay by credit card, you may wish to ask for the credit card machine or “maquininha” also known as the “maquina”
Adjectives: It’s the last night of Rio carnival, as you get ready in your hotel room, you look in the mirror and through blood-shot eyes you notice that you’ve grown a little beer belly as a souvenir from this week of drinking. You are now officially “um pouquinho gordinho” – a little bit fat.
That evening you head out for a few MORE drinks at Bar Jobi and, as you squeeze past a pretty group of carioca girls, you turn to the prettiest one and say “excuse me : “con licencinha”. Boom she thinks you’re a local and you may even get a smile out of her.
Proper Nouns: When my friend was born, he was named Pedro. When he grew up, he didn’t grow up that much, and he became Pedrinho. It’s a term of affection for my small friend, and unless he goes through some weird mid-thirties growth spurt, he will be known as Pedrinho for the rest of his life.
Of course there are exceptions: For words ending in a stressed syllable (-á, é, ó), you need to add a zinho/a to the end of your word. In a coffee shop you might order a cafezinho (espresso) whilst relaxing in a sofazinho (small sofa). Just try not to spill any on your brand new camizinha (small shirt).
Words ending in two vowels like boa, or words ending in a nasal sound also end in “zinho/a”.
Here are some of our favourite diminutives:
Gracinha – fun
Bonitinha – cute
Feinha – kind of ugly
Fofinha – a little bit of gossip
Jeitinho – finding a way around a problem