Learn Italian Expressions Made Better – or Worse – with Italian Suffixes

Italian Cognates on via Dante, Milan
Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Have you ever noticed that native Italian speakers often give “unusual” endings to many common words and expressions?

That’s because a native speaker of Italian knows intuitively how to change the ending of a word to emphasize the point that they want to make.  This quick and easy “shortcut” gives shades of meaning to many Italian expressions and makes the Italian language colorful and rich.

But, don’t worry if you don’t know these tricks in Italian – the “unusual” endings you are hearing actually follow a pattern, which makes them easy to learn!

For instance, there are certain endings that can be added to a word in order to emphasize how small or endearing someone or something is.

There are also endings that have the opposite effect, and emphasize the largeness of a person or a thing.  In this case, the connotation may be positive; for instance, suffixes can be used to emphasize the importance of an individual.  In other cases, the connotation is  negative if emphasis is given to a characteristic considered to be bad or unflattering.

In theory, these endings can be added to any noun or adjective, but in practice, only certain words are used in this way, so it is best to listen to native speakers and use only words that are familiar to you.

See how this works below with an excerpt reprinted from the grammar section of our Conversational Italian for Travelers  textbook, courtesy of publisher Stella Lucente, LLC.

For an easy-to read reference book on grammar, the same section is found in the  reference book Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Grammar.


Grammar Note: Common Italian Suffixes

The meaning of an Italian noun or adjective can be altered by attaching particular endings, called “suffixes”, to the original word.

Simply drop the final vowel of the noun or adjective to be modified, and add the endings described in each section. Common examples are given below in this blog for each “rule”.

Remember, not all words can be modified in this way, so in this case it is very important to use native speakers as a guide!

Small and Endearing

The endings -ino(a) and-etto(a) in Italian render the ideas of smallness and endearment.

Cara = dear Carina = cute
Casa = house Casetta = cute little house
Piccolo(a) = small Piccolino(a) = very small/cute
Povero(a) = poor Poverino(a) = poor thing
Sorella = sister Sorellina = dear little sister



Large and Important or More Negative

The ending –one in Italian renders the idea of largeness and importance, but can also be used to make a negative trait more prominent as well.

Bacio = kiss Bacione  = big kiss
Cena = dinner Cenone = big/important dinner

Cenone di Natale = Christmas dinner

Cenone di Capodanno = New Year’s Eve dinner

Chiacchiera = gossip Chiacchierone = gossiper/chatterbox/long-winded
Mamma = mamma Mammone = mama’s boy
Naso = nose Nasone = big nose
Pigro(a) = lazy Pigrone = very lazy/couch potato



Negative  or Bad

The endings –accia and -accio in Italian are negative endings, used to indicate that something or someone is or has become bad.

Giornata = day Giornataccia = bad day
Parolaword Parolaccia = dirty word
Ragazzo = boy Ragazzaccio = bad boy
Tempo = weather Tempaccio = very bad weather



If you can think of another word with a common ending change to add to these lists, please join our Conversational Italian! Facebook group and leave a post, or leave a message below. I’d love to hear from you!

Just the Grammar from Conversational Italian for Travelers
Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Grammar

Available on Amazon.com and www.Learn Travel Italian.com