-et and -ette Suffix

French suffix -et
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Les suffixes -et et -ette

The French suffixes -et (masculine) and –ette (feminine) can be added to nouns (including proper nouns), verbs, and adjectives.

1) Noun + –et  /  –ette

The suffixes –et and –ette are usually diminutives when added to nouns.

Par exemple…

Nom English   Français English
un ballon balloon   un ballonet small balloon
une cuve vat, tank   une cuvette basin, bowl
une île island   un îlet small island
une malle trunk   une mallette suitcase, briefcase

Sometimes the relationship between the original noun and its suffixed counterpart is more figurative.

Originel English   Nouveau English
une courge squash   une courgette zucchini
un noix walnut   une noisette hazelnut
une rose rose   une rosette rosette (rose-shaped decoration)

1½) Proper noun + –et  /  –ette

Suffixes can be added to masculine or feminine names to make diminutives:

Prénom   Diminutif
Jacques   Jacquet
Julie   Juliette
Michel   Michelet

In addition, –ette may be added to masculine names to make them feminine:

Masculin   Féminin
Antoine   Antoinette
Henri   Henriette
Yves   Yvette

More: French names

2) Verb + –et  /  –ette

The suffixes can be added to the roots of verbs (verb minus infinitive ending) to make related nouns.

Verbe English   Nom English
allumer to light   une allumette match
jouer to play   un jouet toy
siffler to whistle   un sifflet whistle
trottiner to trot along   une trottinette scooter

3) Adjective + –et  /  –ette

The suffixes can be added to adjectives, with one of two results.

a. The new adjective is softer, weakened form of the original, along the lines of "somewhat ____."

Adjectif English   Adjectifs English
(fou) folle crazy   follet, follette scatterbrained
(mou) molle soft   mollet, mollette fairly soft
(long) longue long   longuet, longuette a bit (too) long

b. The new adjective is a stronger form of the original: "very ____."

Adjectif English   Adjectifs English
jeune young   jeunet, jeunette very young (pejorative)
propre clean   propret, proprette sparkling clean

 Note that the feminine form of the original adjective is always the starting point for both the masculine and feminine forms of the new, suffixed adjective.

Want more?

For more French words that end in –et or –ette, try the amazing Recherche par critères feature of Le Petit Robert. You can choose a catégorie grammaticale to see just nouns, for example, or leave that section blank for a complete list.

Petit Robert

En anglais

There are a number of English words with the suffixes –et and especially –ette, which usually act as a diminutive. For example,

  • booklet
  • featurette
  • kitchenette
  • towelette

But as in French, the relationship between the original and suffixed word doesn’t always have to do with size – e.g., bachelorette and leaflet. Also, watch out for this

 Faux ami: brunette. In English, this refers to a woman with dark hair, which in French is simply une brune. So since –ette is a diminutive, une brunette in French means "a petite woman with dark hair."

 Related lessons

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-et French suffix
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