There are many ways to speak English.
You can speak “professional” English and use words and phrases which are suitable for work.
You can also speak “cute” English, and use words and phrases which show affection and familiarity. When we want to be cute in English, we often use “diminutives”: a form of the word which gives the impression that the thing is small, or lovely.
The fascinating thing is that diminutives exist in all languages. You have “ino” in Italian (momento = momentino); or “chen” in German, for example. Some languages also repeat the word. We have “night night” in English (to say “good night” to children), while in Mandarin, “long long” means “little dragon” (“long” = dragon).
Read on for some examples of the diminutive ‘y’ or ‘ie’ in English!
The diminutive ‘y’ / ‘ie’
In English, the diminutive ‘y’ or ‘ie’ at the end of the word is often used to show that someone / something is familiar or loved. This often happens in “baby talk”. Mum and Dad become “Mummy” or “Daddy” (for small children), and pets, like dogs or cats, become “doggy” or “kitty”.
The ‘y’ sound is particularly good for babies. The “ee” sound is a high-pitched sound (making it easier for babies to hear). This is important for English, where lots of words end on a consonant. Adding the “ee” sound helps babies hear the final consonant sound of the original word. (When you say “kitty”, you hear the “t” more than if you say “cat”.)
The other reason is that words with closed vowels (such as the “ee” sound) are associated more with smaller things than words with open vowels (such as the “ah” or “oh” sounds). A “kitty” sounds like a smaller animal than a “cat”, for example.
We can make lots of diminutives from names:
Robert = Robbie / Bobbie
Samuel / Samantha = Sammy
John = Johnny
Nicola / Nicholas = Nicky / Nicki
Victoria = Vicky / Vicki
Penelope = Penny
Thomas = Tommy
Sarah = Sally
William = Billy
Timothy = Timmy
These are very common for children, but we often remove the “ie” and “y” ending for adults – particularly for men. So Bobby becomes “Bob”, and so on. Here are some adult versions of the names:
Rob, Bob, Sam, Nick, Tom, Bill, Tim, etc.
Diminutive nouns with ‘y’ / ‘ie’
Here are 15 common nouns in the diminutive form:
footie = football
“Have you been watching the footie?”
telly = television
“There’s nothing on telly any more!”
hottie = hot water bottle
“Shall I make you a hottie?”
(Also someone who is “hot”, or good-looking.)
tummy = stomach
“She’s got a tummy ache.”
cookie = biscuit
“Do you want another cookie?”
goodies and baddies = the good guys and the bad guys, often in a film
“Basically, the goodies have to defend Earth against the baddies.”
softie = someone who is kind and harmless
“He’s an old softie, really.”
no biggy = no big problem
“Don’t worry if you can’t get an answer by today. It’s no biggy.”
quickie = something very quick
“A quickie for you…” (= a quick question)
(Also means a quick sexual encounter!)
offie = off-licence (a place in the UK to buy alcohol)
“Can you nip down to the offie to get some wine?”
bookie = the book-makers (a place in the UK to place a bet on horse races)
“The high street is full of bookies now.”
selfie = a photo you take of yourself
“Her insta feed basically just consists of her selfies.”
hippie = someone who is into peace, love, organic food, Zen, etc
“She’s an old hippie at heart.”
leftie = someone whose politics is left-wing
“Our town council is dominated by lefties.”
commie = communist
“He loves it when you call him a commie!”
bestie = your best friend
“Those two have been besties since primary school.”
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