-issime Suffix

French suffix -issime
Paris est grandissime et bellissime !
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Le suffixe -issime

The French suffix -issime is added to adjectives and acts as an intensifier or superlative, adding meanings like "very," "extremely," or "most." There are few French words that end in -issime and they’re fairly rare:

AdjectifEnglishRacine Nouveau mot
bellebeautifulbell- bellissime
éminenteminent  éminentissime
excellentexcellent  excellentissime
grandbig, great  grandissime
graveseriousgrav- gravissime
illustreillustriousilllustr- illustrissime
rarerarerar- rarissime
révérendreverend  révérendissime
richerichrich- richissime
sereinserenesérén-* sérénissime

* Sérénissime doesn’t actually come from the French adjective serein, but rather straight from the Italian serenissimo, hence the loss of "i" from serein and addition of accents aigus.

Notes

  • Adjectives that end in e drop that vowel before adding the suffix.
  • Éminentissime and révérendissime are honorifics reserved for cardinals and archbishops, respectively.
  • Sérénissime means "most serene" when talking to royalty. Historically, it meant "Venetian," as in La sérénissime république = la république de Venise.

 There is one noun that takes this suffix: généralissime = generalissimo, top general, general in charge of other generals.

 There can be a playful aspect as well, as Le Grand Robert remarks in its -issime entry:

Ce suffixe, parfois sous la forme italienne -issimo, a été mis à la mode dans les années 1950-1960 (cf. Snobissimo, de P. Daninos) et sert à former des adjectifs plus ou moins plaisants.

(…) Paris continue sa marche en avant vers le Paris parissime, capitale superspirituelle (…) Jacques Perret, Bâtons dans les roues, p. 25.

Etymology

The suffix -issime is the Frenchified version of the Italian suffix -issimo, but there are also a few words in French that keep the original form. With the exception of the exclamation bravissimo, they’re all adverbs related to playing music:

  • dolcissimo – very sweetly
  • fortissimo – very loudly
  • pianissimo – very softly
  • prestissimo – very quickly

 Related lessons

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Grandissime et bellissime

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