The art of the suffix

O Malhadinhas

The Portuguese love to use the suffixes “inho” (pronounced eeño) and “zinho” (zeeño). They change the meaning of words in subtle, endearing ways. Instead of calling your friend Pedro, you call him Pedrinho. It means little Pedro, dear Pedro. It says you care about him.

If the gender of the word is feminine, you use “inha” (eeña ) or “zinha” (zeeña ). To greet your friend Maria you say “olá Mariazinha,” and Maria is guaranteed to smile.

These suffixes don’t apply only to proper names. To ask for a favor, ask for a “favorzinho,” and you’re more likely to see it granted. “Obrigado” means thank you, but to say a special thank you, you say “obrigadinho.”

In the 16th century, the Portuguese arrived in Japan where “obrigado,” became “arrigato.” But we didn’t stay for long, so the Japanese never learned to say “arrigatinho.”

In contrast, the Portuguese stayed in Brazil time enough for Brazilians to learn the ways of the “inho.” That’s why Brazil has been blessed with talented soccer players like Ronaldinho and brilliant bossa nova musicians like Toquinho.

Would the Japanese play beautiful soccer and sing bossa nova if they had mastered the art of the “inho”? You bet.

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4 thoughts on “The art of the suffix

  1. I’ve taught this to my kids and they get such a kick out of saying everything in the diminutive. I remember seeing a Cristiano Ronaldo interview in Portuguese (on Youtube) and he’s refers to his “tiny little backyard” and his “tiny little trophies”. Made me smile 🙂

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