Useful Little Words

The Lithuanian language makes extensive of diminutives, in all their grammatical forms.  Don’t let the term fool you, however; most diminutives are actually longer words than the original because they are formed by adding suffixes.

1.  A version of a noun that refers to a small version of something.  Examples:

Kepykla = bakery; kepyklelė = small bakery

Upė = river; upelė = small river

2. A version of a noun that indicates familiarity or fondness. Examples:

Mama = Mamytė

3. A short form of a personal name

Dalia = Dalytė

Beyond these grammatical uses of the diminutive, some Lithuanians will turn anything into a diminutive — and sometimes it sounds a bit odd to me.

For example, vyras, which means man, becomes vyrukas.  I never know what to think about this — is it affectionate (as in “he’s a great guy), is it actually derogatory (if one translated into English “little man” is sounds a bit derogatory) or is it factual (a short man).

And then there is litukas — or “little litas” (the Lithuanian currency).  It seems to be used to indicate a low price, i.e., “it only cost 3 litukai.”  Or maybe Lithuanians really feel an affection for their currency since it represents independence.

I’m not sure how to make a diminutive of my name.  In English, the diminutive is “Mandy” (which I haven’t been called since I was two years old).  Perhaps Amandytė or Amandelė?

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Creating academic and public environments for the humanities to flourish Researching Soviet and Eastern European history Engaging people and ideas as a writer and interviewer Traveling as much as possible View all posts by amanda

3 responses to “Useful Little Words

  • Litlocal

    WOW 😀
    Amandukė 😀 . Amandėlė also is good 😀 . Amandytė sounds too fragile for the serious historian 😀 😀 .

    “Litukas” is probably “pretty little litas”, but my english is pretty limited so maybe others will correct me …
    There are several versions of any diminutive, say “Upė” (river): upelis, upelė, upeliukas, upeliūkštis; “Mama”: mamytė, mamutė, mamelė, mamaitė.. (the mood varies in every version)

  • Lauryna Šidlauskaitė

    Well, the usage of all those suffixes and the correct choice depends on what you want to say, And the example with vyrukas shows that because all meanings you mentioned are available and make sense. Lithuanian language is really playful with words as Litlocal mentioned above. That’s why a sentence with the same meaning in English can sound differently every time because we speak as we feel 🙂

  • Daiva

    Vyrukas is mostly affectionate and used in phrases like “jis – šaunus vyrukas” (he’s a great guy). It’s mostly used by the older generations, whereas the young would opt for slang words (“jis – kietas bičas/ čiūvas/ pacanas”) or the more common “vaikinas” 🙂 I hardly ever hear young people say ‘vyrukas’, except in the movies.

    Litukas/ai means that it doesn’t cost much. But it’s also a part of market ladies’ talk, which is often full of diminutives. Have you noticed that they often address middle-aged women as ‘mergaitės’ or ‘panelės’? There is a certain stereotype of a lady who works in catering or sells something on a local market, whose speech is always full of litukai, padažiukas, mėsytė..

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