I don't speak Italian, but if I'm not mistaken, -ino is both a diminutive (e.g. ragazzo ‘boy’ – ragazzino ‘little boy’) and a suffix that creates nationality names (e. g. tunisino means 'Tunisian'). Is there a way to check if there is an etymological link between these two meanings of the suffix? Like, if they share an origin, or if there is a connection between them semantically? Mainly what interests me is if they are the same morpheme with 2 meanings (i.e. a case of polysemy) or two different morphemes that just happen to have the same form (i.e. a case of homonymy). It would really give me a peace of mind if I knew the answer :) If, by any chance you could provide any sources/dictionaries/anything that would help me with this question (otherwise even a simple answer will do, in case you happen to know the answer), I'd be eternally grateful. My browsings on google haven't helped at all.

1 Answer 1


According to this study, they both come from Latin -īnus:

Data from Romance languages (§ 4.1), from Greek (§ 4.2), and from Slavonic languages (§ 4.3) give evidence in favor of this second hypothesis: the shift in meaning of It. -ino (in tavolino "small table"), Gr. -άκι (in λαθάκι "a pardonable error"), Blg. -ec/-íca (in brátec "little brother" / zeníca "little woman"), etc. towards the current diminutive value took its first steps in the designation of the genealogical relation between father and son and between the adult and the young.

Some of the most widely used Romance diminutive suffixes, It. -ino, sp. –ín, port. ‑inho, are the outcome of a single Latin suffix, -īnus, the various semantic readings of which are usually traced back to a vague relational value (cănīnus "pertaining to the dog"; vespertīnus "happening in the evening", Sābātīnus "of Sabate, a town in Etruria", etc.)

This semantic development has happened in Slavic languages as well, with an apparently unrelated suffix -it'ь. Its reflexes form patronyms (Russian Иванович [Ivanovich] "son of Ivan"), demonyms (Russian москвич [moskvich] "resident of Moscow"), diminutives (Serbo-Croatian Божић [Bozhich] "Yuletide", literally "small god") and agent nouns (Macedonian водич [vodich] "guide").

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