The German Diminutive

Introduction to the diminutive

The diminutive is formed in standard German by adding the suffixes –chen or –lein.

All diminutives are neuter. No suffix is added to form the plural.

For example, change the declension of die Zicke ( the goat) to das Zicklein ( the kid)

Nominativedas Zickleindie Zicklein
Accusativedas Zickleindie Zicklein
Dativedem Zickleinden Zicklein
Genitivedes Zickleinsder Zicklein

An "Umlaut" is often added to the diminutive form. der Hund ( the dog) das Hündchen ( puppy)

Nominativedas Hündchendie Hündchen
Accusativedas Hündchendie Hündchen
Dativedem Hündchenden Hündchen
Genitivedes Hündchensder Hündchen

Common diminutives in German

das Mädchen
the girl

das Bisschen
a bit

The Word "Mädchen"

The German word das Mädchen ( girl) is very interesting:

  • You’d think that the word "girl" would have to be feminine, but it’s neuter because it’s diminutive
  • It comes from the word die Magd but the "g" is lost with the formation of the diminutive
  • The word die Magd can form a diminutive as well with –lein: das Magdlein