As a follow-up to Difficult diminutives, my daughter just brought home a homework, where she is supposed to find diminutives with -inho and -ola. I've never seen or heard diminutives with -ola, and the formation isn't listed in my Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar.

The suffix -ola is listed in Aurélio


[Poss. do it. -ola ou do fr. -ole, ambos do lat. -ola.]
Sufixo nominal.

  1. = 'diminuição': bandeirola, portinhola, rapazola. [Em palavras como patetola e beiçola, significa, ironicamente, o oposto.]

The homework was set with

          |  -inho   |   -ola
bandeira  |          |
porta     |          |
rapaz     |          |

exactly the three words which appear in the Aurélio entry. Is the suffix -ola still productive, that is, can I form the diminutive of any word with it?

In the case of bandeirinha ↔ bandeirola, the former appears to be football/soccer slang for assistant referees (those with the little flags), so I see why one would want two diminutives.

In the case of portinhola ↔ portinha, I'm not so sure of the difference (plus, the formation seems to be irregular: is there a word portola, too?).

1. Pequena porta
2. [...]

[no entry, presumably meaning "pequena porta"?]

Can anyone explain more about the differences between these diminutives?

  • 1
    It's a very difficult question. In my opinion the suffix -ola is smaller than -inho in this cases but it's only an "achismo".
    – Jorge B.
    Oct 20 '15 at 12:50

You can add the suffix (z)inho to pretty much any noun to form a diminutive usually expressing the idea that the thing is little or likeable. You can even add (z)inho to adjectives.

It is a different case with the suffix ola. People don’t usually make up new words with it as they do with (z)inho, and that is why it is new to you.
And most of the words that exist with ola aren’t simply smaller or likeable versions of their root word; often they’re not small at all, or particularly likeable. They typically have a meaning of their own, deserving their own entry in the dictionaries when their (z)inho siblings do not. Here are a few examples:

Rapazola is an older teenager.
Criançola is someone who's no longer a child but is more childish than we would like.
Bandeirola is a small flag used for signalling or showing boundaries of fields.
Galinhola is the name of several wild birds not related to the chicken.
Camisola is a nightdress in Brazil and a jersey, sweater in Portugal.
Portinhola (portinh(a) + ola) is indeed a small door, especially in a coach or a hatch in a ship.
Aldeola is indeed a small village.
Quintarola (quinta, farm, + ola) is a small farm.

I would say words with -ola will typically mean one or both of two things. One is that the thing is in some sense not the very best of its kind. For instance, an aldeola is a small aldeia; quintarola a small quinta; a criançola is the wrong type of ‘criança’; a graçola is not that funny.

Another possibility is that the thing is not bad or small at all, and the speaker, perhaps co-opting the previous notion, is simply trying to convey a light-hearted, somewhat playful attitude towards the thing. So it expresses some familiarity but not the sentimentality and ‘lamechice’ of the -inho word. This is the case of words such as cervejola and dentola, and that’s what I would infer if I heard made-up words such as in:

“Não queres comer esta bananola?” "Não, quero antes aquela maçãzola.”
“Vá, salta para a banheira: vamos lá lavar essa cabeçola!”

The two features may be combined in words such as festarola, jantarola; maybe not the best of their kinds, but we still like them.

Some derogatory epithets can take the suffix -olas too:

Sempre me saíste um doidolas!
És um bebedolas!

And the only example I can think of that derives from a verb (I can’t believe I had forgotten this crucial specimen):

Não passas dum cagarolas!

Some -ola words have meanings only tenuously related to the root word, and defy classification. For instance, castanhola is a musical instrument that looks vaguely like a castanha or chestnut. Camisola is not an inferior type of camisa, it is just a jersey whereas a camisa is a shirt. So when you come across a new -ola word it may be best to look it up in a dictionary: its meaning might not be guessable from the root word in a predictable way.

  • 1
    Qual é que te parece que é o significado de "-ola"? O sufixo não me parece muito produtivo, mas se visses uma palavra nova com "-ola", imaginemos uma "tigelola" (de "tigela"), o que é que dirias que era?
    – Artefacto
    Oct 20 '15 at 21:04
  • 3
    Isto para ser um bom teste, não devias dizer donde é que vinha. Diria que era um tigela, talvez um bocado mal-feitona. Mais provavelmente seria o falante a brincar. Não a imaginaria pequena. Acho duvidoso chamar-se diminutivo às palavras formadas com o sufixo "-ola".
    – Jacinto
    Oct 20 '15 at 21:17
  • 1
    Sim, também me parece ser essa mais ou menos a ideia, de tirar seriedade à coisa, como em "cervejola", "festarola" e, como dizes, até ter uma carga ligeiramente negativa como em "graçola" (mas não tanto um diminutivo mais depreciativo como "-eco"). Mas também acho que a ideia de "diminutivo" não é completamente descabida.
    – Artefacto
    Oct 20 '15 at 22:29
  • 1
    Once I heard someone say "tiazola", meaning someone old, conservative and not very active. Although it's rare to use this suffix to create new words, it happens. And it feels it carries something pejorative.
    – bfavaretto
    Oct 20 '15 at 22:44
  • 1
    "You can also form words with adjective + -ola or + -olas." Mas depois os exemplos que dás são usos como nome: "um doidolas", "um bebedolas", onde seria mais razoável dizer que vêm de "doido (como nome) + olas" e "bêbedo (como nome) + olas".
    – Artefacto
    Oct 21 '15 at 12:26

When I posted the question, I thought that maybe there were only maybe three words with diminutives -ola, but @Jacinto's answer already lists 8 such words.

In fact, looking through all the words in Aurélio ending in -ola, I found a more extensive list of 60+ such words (see below). (Since Aurélio is for Brazilian Portuguese, such a list would probably look different for European Portuguese.)

My impression is that the suffix -ola was (and maybe still is) productive, but not to form usual diminutives.

  • [X]inho appears to be (literally) a "small cute" X, but
  • [X]ola might be something that
    • shares some (but not all) characteristics with small X
    • looks like or acts like a small X, or
    • maybe is a special type of small X.

Moreover, most if not all have a special meaning, as implied by the fact that they are all listed separately in the dictionary.

  • absidíola
  • aldeola
  • arteríola
  • asneirola
  • bana(n)zola?
  • bandeirola
  • bandola
  • barbeirola
  • beiçola
  • bractéola
  • cachola
  • caixola
  • camisola
  • cantarola
  • caranguejola
  • carriola
  • casinhola
  • castanhola
  • chacarola
  • corriola
  • criançola
  • dançarola
  • dentola
  • drupéola
  • eletrola
  • esquírola
  • estanciola
  • farsola
  • fazendola
  • festarola
  • fovéola
  • gabarola
  • galéola
  • galinhola
  • graçola
  • grafonola
  • granjola
  • herdadola
  • historíola
  • igrejola
  • jantarola
  • lauréola
  • marola
  • mentirola
  • passarola
  • patetola
  • patola
  • picola
  • portinhola
  • quartola
  • quintarola
  • rabichola
  • rabiola
  • rapazola
  • rubéola
  • sachola
  • sacola
  • tendola
  • terriola
  • varola
  • vendola
  • Of those words I knew 23; 14 others I hadn't heard before but I can guess what they mean; 16 I don't know what they mean; and 7 are not proper X-ola words - they are X-éola or X-íola, and I think they are all fairly technical terms, whereas X-ola are popular words. Are you sure it is varola , not varíola?
    – Jacinto
    Oct 20 '15 at 21:47
  • Correction: there are 10 X-íola/éola words. That makes only 13 X-ola words I can't make out.
    – Jacinto
    Oct 20 '15 at 22:06
  • 2
    @Jacinto "varola [vara + -ola]. (1) vareta." About the "proper" X-ola words: Some of these are derived from Latin or French words with -ola suffix (with the same meaning), so they are still X-ola words, but in an extended sense. Others have an inserted interfix -i-, but they are still listed as using the suffix -ola.
    – Earthliŋ
    Oct 20 '15 at 22:55
  • I put this list together fairly quickly, but I'm happy to look again at the details for individual items in this list if anyone finds an entry odd or out-of-place.
    – Earthliŋ
    Oct 20 '15 at 23:50
  • 2
    If you're aming at a complete list, here's cervejola and bebedolas. There's also estarola, but it is dubious because we're not sure what the root word is. I would place the -íola, -éola in a separate category. They are related to the others only in a very formal way. I doubt any native speaker would see them as belonging to the same category. They take masculine forms too: alvéolo.
    – Jacinto
    Oct 21 '15 at 10:47

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