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An augmentative (abbreviated AUG) is a morphological form of a word which expresses greater intensity, often in size but also in other attributes. It is the opposite of a diminutive.

Overaugmenting something often makes it grotesque and so in some languages, augmentatives are used primarily for comical effect or as pejoratives.

Many languages have augmentatives for nouns, and some have augmentatives for verbs.

Germanic languages


In modern English, augmentatives can be created with the prefixes:

  • over-: e.g., overlord and overseer.
  • grand-: e.g., grandmaster and grandparent.
  • super-: e.g., supermarket and superpower.
  • mega-: e.g., megastore and megastar.
  • arch-: e.g., archrival and archangel.

Since the early 1990s, the prefix über- or uber- has also frequently been used as a borrowing from German.[1] The suffix -zilla, expressing a monstrous quality, can also be considered an augmentative form.

In some parts of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the prefix "auld" is used as an augmentative, and a pejorative in some cases. An example of this is using "auld'un" or "auld one" to describe one's parents/grandparents.


In modern Dutch, augmentatives are usually created with the prefixes:

  • over-: e.g., overgewicht and oververhitting ("overweight" and "overheating")
  • groot-: e.g., grootmeester and groothandel ("grandmaster" and "wholesaler")
  • super-: e.g., supermarkt and supermacht ("supermarket" and "superpower").
  • mega-: e.g., megacontract and megabioscoop ("a very big contract" and "a very large movie theater")

There are also prefixes that can be used for some adjectives:

  • bloed-: e.g., bloedmooi and bloedeigen ("very beautiful" and "very own")[2]
  • steen-: e.g., steenrijk and steengoed ("very rich" and "very good"; lit. "stone rich" and "stone good")
  • kei-: e.g., keihard and keileuk ("very fast/hard/etc." and "very fun", lit. "boulder hard" and "boulder fun")


In German, there are different ways to build augmentatives. They are rarely used prefixes:

  • un-, for instance in Unzahl "huge number", Unsumme "huge sum", Unmenge "huge quantity". Mostly used for negation, however (e.g. Unglück "bad luck", Unsinn "nonsense"), and occasionally in a pejorative sense (Unwetter "bad weather", Untier "monster", lit. "un-creature").
  • ur-, for instance, uralt "ancient"
  • über-, for instance, Übermensch (q.v.)
  • aber-, for instance, abertausend "thousands".
  • mega-, for example megageil "mega-cool"
  • ultra-, for example ultracool
  • voll-, for example Vollpfosten "idiot", lit. "total post"


In Swedish the way to build augmentative is to add one of many prefixes before the word. This can be done on words in most word classes. The most common prefixes are: jätte- "giant", bauta-, mega-. For example:

  • hus "house" -> megahus "gigantic house"
  • snabb "fast" -> jättesnabb "very fast"
  • sten "rock" -> bautasten "boulder"

There are many synonyms to jätte-, although only when jätte- means "very", not big. Some of these synonyms are: as-, gör-, svin-, skit-, and ur- although, as written above, these do not change the size of a noun but just change e.g. gul "yellow" to jättegul "very yellow". The use of prefixes to build augmentatives is quite colloquial and is seldom used in formal text and speech, where adjectives and adverbs are used instead.

Greek language

Modern Greek has a variety of augmentative suffixes: -?, -, -?, ?-?, -?, -, ?-.

Romance languages


Italian has several augmentatives:

  • -one, -ona, found also in several English loanwords from Italian, often via French:[3]minestrone (< minestra 'soup'); provolone cheese (< provola 'a kind of cheese'); cartone (< carta 'paper') appears in English carton and cartoon; (obsolete, regional) ballone (< possibly from balla 'ball', but perhaps a French formation being the proper Italian word "palla"[4]); millione 'million' (< mille 'thousand');

Suffixes -accio, -accia, and -astro, -astra, also exist, but they are used to form pejorative words, with no properly augmentative meaning: coltellaccio (< coltello 'knife'; gives English cutlass); the family name Carpaccio.


In Portuguese, the most common augmentatives are the masculine -ão (sometimes also -zão or -zarrão) and the feminine -ona (or -zona), although there are others, less frequently used. E.g. carro "car", carrão "big car"; homem "man", homenzarrão "big man"; mulher "woman", mulherona "big woman".

Sometimes, especially in Brazilian Portuguese, the masculine augmentative can be applied to a feminine noun, which then becomes grammatically masculine, but with a feminine meaning (e.g. "o mulherão" instead of "a mulherona" for "the big woman"); however, such cases usually imply subtle meaning twists, mostly with a somewhat gross or vulgar undertone (which, nonetheless, is often intentional, for the sake of wit, malice or otherwise; so, mulherão actually means not a big woman, but a particularly sexy one).


In Romanian there are several augmentative suffixes: -oi/-oaie, -an/-an? etc. (masculine/feminine pairs). They originate from Latin -? (acc. sg. -?nem), the origin of the other Romance augmentative suffixes. The archaic form has survived unchanged in Banat (and in Aromanian) as -on', -oan'e. As in other Romance languages, a feminine base word may have masculine or feminine forms in the augmentative. Examples:

  • cas? (f.) -> c?soi (n.), c?soaie (f.)
  • piatr? (f.) -> pietroi (n.)
  • b?iat (m.) -> b?ie?oi (m.)
  • b?iat (m.) -> b?ietan (m.)
  • fat? (f.) -> feti?can? (f.)


In Spanish, -o becomes -ón and -a becomes -ona most frequently, but -ote/-ota and -azo/-aza (also meaning -blow) are also commonly seen. Others include -udo/-uda, -aco/-aca, -acho/-acha, -uco/-uca, -ucho/-ucha, -astro/-astra and -ejo/-eja. More detail at Spanish nouns.

Slavic languages


In Bulgarian, as in Russian, mainly with -.


In Polish there is a variety of augmentatives formed with suffixes, for exampleaba (a frog) -> ?abucha / ?absko / ?abisko / ?abula; or kamie? (a stone) -> kamulec / kamior / etc.


In Russian there is a variety of augmentatives formed with prefixes (including loans from Latin) and suffixes, including - and - for example: (the house) (great house) ? (huge house). To provide an impression of excessive qualities the suffix - can be used for example? (the wind), (strong wind).

Croatian and Serbian

In Croatian and Serbian there is a variety of augmentative nouns formed with suffixes:[5][6][7][8]

  • -ina, e.g. brdo, n. ("hill") + ina -> brdina
  • -?ina, e.g. majmun, m. ("monkey") + ?ina -> majmun?ina
  • -etina, e.g. ku?a, f. ("house") + etina -> ku?etina
  • -erina, e.g. ku?a + erina -> ku?erina
  • -urina, e.g. ptica, f. ("bird") + urina -> pti?urina
  • -e?ina, e.g. glava, f. ("head") + e?ina -> glave?ina
  • -u?tina, e.g. bara, f. ("pond") + u?tina -> baru?tina
  • -u?ina, e.g. pijetao, m. ("rooster") + u?ina -> pjetlu?ina
  • -urda, e.g. noga, f. ("leg") + urda -> no?urda
  • -ura, e.g. djevojka, f. ("girl") + ura -> djevoj?ura
  • -eskara, e.g. ljudi, m., pluralia tantum ("people") + eskara -> ljudeskara, singular ("big person")
  • -uskara, e.g. baba, f. ("grandma") + uskara -> babuskara
  • -erda, e.g. ruka, f. ("arm") + erda -> ru?erda

Augmentative nouns are either pejoratives or hypocorisms.[9] All augmentative nouns have female grammatical gender. Some nouns can have their augmentatives formed with different suffixes, for example, see 'ku?a' above.

In Hrvatska gramatika, Bari? et al. do not classify adjectives formed with suffixes which intensify an action or property as augmentatives. The augmentative prefixes for adjectives listed in Hrvatska gramatika are pre- ("excessively"; or excess of a favorable property),[10] hiper- ("hyper-"), super- and ultra-.[8] According to Hrvatska enciklopedija, augmentative verbs surpass their base verb with their intensity.[7] However, by defining augmentative verbs as an action done excessively,[11]Hrvatska gramatika only lists pre- ("over-") as an augmentative verb.[8]

Semitic languages


Form II of the Arabic verb often has an augmentative sense, which may indicate intensity (intensive) or repetition (frequentative).[12]

Bantu languages

Bantu languages' noun class markers often double as augmentative and diminutive markers, and some have separate classes that are used only as a augmentative or a diminutive.


Chichewa noun class 7 prefix chi- doubles up as augmentative marker. For example, chindege which is a huge plane as opposed to ndege which is just a regular plane.

International auxiliary languages


In Esperanto, the -eg- suffix is included before the final part-of-speech vowel. For example, domo (house) becomes domego (mansion). See Esperanto vocabulary.


Interlingua does not have an augmentative suffix, but international prefixes such as super-, hyper-, mega- can be used as augmentatives. See also Interlingua grammar.


  1. ^ "uber". Unabridged. Random House.
  2. ^ Note that Dutch bloed- is unrelated to English bloody. The former is formed in analogy with bloedeigen ('very own'), bloedrood ('very red'), etc. wherein it originally had its proper meaning 'blood' ('of your own blood', and 'blood red') whereas the latter's origin is uncertain but according to the OED might refer to the habits of the aristocracy (those of the blood): bloody drunk.
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, s.v. -oon
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. balloon
  5. ^ "Augmentativ i deminutiv - Op?te obrazovanje". (in Serbian). Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ Karaka?, Jure. Gramatika u stihu.
  7. ^ a b "augmentativ | Hrvatska enciklopedija". Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Bari?, Eugenija; Lon?ari?, Mijo; Mali?, Dragica; Pave?i?, Slavko; Peti, Mirko; Ze?evi?, Vesna; Znika, Marija (1997). Hrvatska gramatika. ?kolska knjiga. ISBN 953-0-40010-1.
  9. ^ "augmentativ". Hrvatski jezi?ni portal (in Croatian). Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ "pre-". Hrvatski jezi?ni portal (in Croatian). Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ "Glagolski vid § 234.6". Masaryk University.
  12. ^ Mark W. Cowell, A Reference Grammar of Syrian Arabic. Georgetown University Press, 2005. ISBN 1-58901-051-5. p. 253

See also

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