Augmentative

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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.

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

Many languages have augmentatives for nouns; some have augmentatives for verbs.

Germanic languages[edit]

English[edit]

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., mega store and megastar.
  • arch-: e.g., archrival and archangel.

Since the early 1990s, the prefix über- has also frequently been used as a borrowing from German.[1]

In recent years, the suffix -zilla is sometimes used as a jocular augmentative.

Dutch[edit]

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

  • over-: e.g., overgewicht and oververhitting (resp. "overweight" and "overheating")
  • groot-: e.g., grootmeester and groothandel (resp. "grandmaster" and "wholesaler")
  • super-: e.g., supermarkt and supermacht (resp. "supermarket" and "superpower").
  • mega-: e.g., megacontract and megabioscoop (resp. "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 (resp. "very beautiful" and "very own")[2]
  • steen-: e.g., steenrijk and steengoed (resp. "very rich" and "very good"; lit. "stone rich" and "stone good")
  • kei-: e.g., keihard and keileuk (resp. "very fast/hard/&c." and "very fun", lit. "boulder hard" and "boulder fun")

German[edit]

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

  • Un-, for instance in Unzahl, Unsumme, Unmenge, Untiefe.
    Un- is more often used for negation (e.g. Unglück, Unsinn).
    This leads sometimes to confusion: Untiefe when referring to water can mean either very deep or shallow water.
  • "Über-", for instance, "Übermensch".
  • Aber-, for instance, Abertausend.

Hellenic languages[edit]

Greek[edit]

Modern Greek has a variety of augmentative suffixes: -α, -άρα, -αράς, ΄-αρος, -άκλα, -ακλάς, ΄-ακλας.

Latin and Romance languages[edit]

Italian[edit]

Italian has several augmentatives:

  • -one, -ona, found also in several English loanwords from Italian: minestrone (< minestra 'soup'); provolone cheese (< provola 'ewe'); cartone (< carta 'paper') appears in English carton and cartoon; ballone (< possibly from balla 'ball', but perhaps a French formation being the proper Italian word "palla"[3]);
  • -accio, -accia (mainly a pejorative): coltellaccio (< coltello 'knife'; gives English cutlass); the family name Carpaccio;
  • -astro, -astra.

Portuguese[edit]

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).

Romanian[edit]

In Romanian there are several augmentative suffixes: -oi/-oaie, -an/-ană etc. (masc/fem pairs). From an unattested Late Latin -onus, -ona, 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 languages, a feminine base word may have masculine or feminine forms in the augmentative. Examples:

  • casă (f.) -> căsoi (n.), căsoaie (f.)
  • piatră (f.) -> pietroi (n.)
  • băiat (m.) -> băieţoi (m.)
  • băiat (m.) -> băietan (m.)
  • fată (f.) ->fătoi (f.)

Spanish[edit]

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[edit]

Bulgarian[edit]

In Bulgarian, as in Russian, mainly with -ище.

Polish[edit]

In Polish there is a variety of augmentatives formed with suffixes, for example: żaba (a frog) - żabucha - żabsko - żabisko - żabula or kamień (a stone) - kamulec - kamior etc.

Russian[edit]

In Russian there is a variety of augmentatives formed with suffixes, including -ище and -ин for example: дом (the house) домище (great house) домина (huge house). To provide an impression of excessive qualities the suffix -га can be used for example: ветер (the wind), ветрюга (strong wind).

Serbian and Croatian[edit]

In Serbian and Croatian there is a variety of augmentatives formed with suffixes, most commonly with -ina.

Semitic languages[edit]

Arabic[edit]

Form II of the Arabic verb often has an augmentative sense, which may indicate intensity (intensive) or repetition (frequentative).[4]

International auxiliary languages[edit]

Esperanto[edit]

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[edit]

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

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "uber". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 
  2. ^ Note that Dutch bloed- is unrelated to English bloody. The former is formed in analogy with bloedeigen (‘very own’), bloedrood (‘very red’), &c. 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, s.v. balloon
  4. ^ Mark W. Cowell, A Reference Grammar of Syrian Arabic. Georgetown University Press, 2005. ISBN 1-58901-051-5. p. 253

See also[edit]