Augmentatives and Diminutives are modifications (like affixes) that "increase" or "decrease" the "value" of some word's meaning: Overlord, duckling.

I found this question about diminutives on this forum already, is there all that is to it? How about augmentatives?

Therefore my question is: Could one decrease or increase the meaning of a word like "tree" by modifying the word? (German example: Baum -> Bäumchen (small) -> Riesenbaum (big)).


Found some. There are many augmentative morphemes, and they can be read in both ways (japanese and sino-japanese) depending on their host. For example 大 (allomorphs: "dai"/"oo"): 大木 ("daiboku": Big tree), 大雨 ("ooame": Heavy rain).

Others are (with one chosen example.This is no full list.):

  • 真 (真白:Pure white),
  • 激 (激臭:Sharp smell),
  • 過 (過労:Overwork),
  • 超 (超電導:Superconductivity),
  • 主( 主食:Staple food),
  • 正 (正門:Main/"correct" gate).

There are also a bit more complicated 母 (母艦:Main warship/Mothership) and 親 (親柱:Main pillar) which seem to have the meaning of "boss", "main", or "big".

Lastly, augmentation is possible through reduplication, for example 深い/fukai/ -> 深々/fukabuka/(deep -> Very deep).

  • What is "megafast"?
    – Eddie Kal
    Aug 12, 2022 at 21:49
  • Sorry! Of course this is not a word. Aug 12, 2022 at 22:05
  • Some words are designed in such way when drawn, e.g. 木 < 林 < 森
    – dungarian
    Aug 13, 2022 at 16:12
  • Good point, however this is not what an augmentative is. But I would be interested in knowing what kind of relation there is between tree and forest. Aug 13, 2022 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


I think the most straight-up answer is to use 大 and 小.

For example:

  • 雪{ゆき} → 大雪{おおゆき}
  • 川{かわ} → 小川{おがわ}
  • 山{やま} → 大山{おおやま}
  • 猫{ねこ} → 小猫{こねこ} (alternatively 子猫{こねこ}・仔猫{こねこ})
  • 雨{あめ} → 大雨{たいう}・大雨{おおあめ}
  • 木{き} → 大木{たいぼく}
  • 樹{き} → 大樹{たいじゅ}
  • 牛{うし} → 小牛{こうし} (alternatively 子牛{こうし}・仔牛{こうし}・犢{こうし})
  • 鼓{つづみ} → 小鼓{しょうこ}

I think you see the pattern here. While the Kanji is 大 and 小, their reading can vary. On the other hand, with animals, sometimes 子/仔 is used in place of 小 but the reading remains the same. 大 can be おお・だい・たい while 小 can be しょう・こ・お(this one is rare) depending on the combination. You kind of just have to learn them one by one but there is a pattern once you see enough of these.

  • [大木]{たいぼく}って、「だいもく」とも読めるのですか? 小鼓は、「こつづみ」だと思っていましたが‥ 大雨は「おおあめ」しか知りませんでしたが、調べると、「たいう」とも読めるそうですね(「 いう」ではなく)
    – chocolate
    Aug 12, 2022 at 23:51
  • @Chocolate そっか… 確かに「こつずみ」とか「おおあめ」とかって一番普通な読みですね。でも辞典を調べたら確かに「しょうこ」と「たいう」が見つかりますよ。 なのに「だいもく」と「だいう」の方は確かに間違ってます!ごめんなさい!すぐに編集!
    – dvx2718
    Aug 13, 2022 at 1:09

I have never seen 大 and 小 as prefixes. They explicitly tell something is big or small just like 赤 tells something is red.

I can think of only one word that I think more or less fits the definition of a diminutive: 豆. This indicates something is small in size. It only goes with certain words, though.

  • 豆電球
  • 豆タンク
  • 豆柴

As for augmentatives, I think ど might qualify. It indicates the degree of something is greater than normal. It’s informal.

  • ど真ん中
  • どケチ
  • どフリー (completely unmarked in certain sports)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .