-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…

NomEnglish FrançaisEnglish
un ballonballoon un ballonetsmall balloon
une cuvevat, tank une cuvettebasin, bowl
une îleisland un îletsmall island
une malletrunk une mallettesuitcase, briefcase

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

OriginelEnglish NouveauEnglish
une courgesquash une courgettezucchini
un noixwalnut une noisettehazelnut
une roserose une rosetterosette (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.

VerbeEnglish NomEnglish
allumerto light une allumettematch
jouerto play un jouettoy
sifflerto whistle un siffletwhistle
trottinerto trot along une trottinettescooter

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 ____."

AdjectifEnglish AdjectifsEnglish
(fou) follecrazy follet, follettescatterbrained
(mou) mollesoft mollet, mollettefairly soft
(long) longuelong longuet, longuettea bit (too) long

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

AdjectifEnglish AdjectifsEnglish
jeuneyoung jeunet, jeunettevery young (pejorative)
propreclean propret, proprettesparkling 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."

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-et French suffix

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