Many languages have a suffix (or some other alteration) that gives a pejorative meaning to a word. For example, in Spanish:

pájaro "bird" + -acopajarraco "big, ugly bird"

What do you call a suffix that gives an "anti-pejorative" meaning to a word? For example, imagine if you could do this:

pájaro "bird" + -iñalopajariñalo "beautiful bird"

  • It normally doesn't work that way. When people want to talk about good things, they want lots of description, not less. On the other hand, pejorative phonesthemes, suffixes, and constructions are abundant. Frankly, humans would rather complain than praise.
    – jlawler
    Jul 20 '14 at 19:42
  • 6
    If such a thing existed, I would refer to it as a meliorative or ameliorative suffix.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 20 '14 at 19:47
  • @ColinFine, post that as an answer (preferably with some citation) and I'd be glad to accept it. So far, everyone's answering to explain how the meaning I'm asking about is combined with some other meaning, but not actually answering the question, which is simply what you call this meaning.
    – Joe
    Jul 26 '14 at 20:42

In many languages, the way to express a positive attitude is to use a 'diminutive' which is used more often for terms of endearment rather than denoting a small size. Conversely, in languages that have an augmentative, it is often used to express pejorative.

As is so often the case in language, these terms are not really symmetrical along some imaginary scale. A language may have a very complex system of diminutives with only the most rudimentary augmentatives or no augmentatives at all. Also, both diminutives and augmentatives can be used for positive and negative evaluation.

  • So what do you call it when a diminutive or augmentative has an "anti-pejorative" meaning?
    – Joe
    Jul 21 '14 at 16:44
  • Sorry, I haven't come up across a label for that phenomenon. It's just how these things behave. This happens all over the place. For instance, I don't think there's a name for when present tense has future meaning. You just describe it. Jul 21 '14 at 17:16
  • 1
    @Joe, it used to be called "ameliorative."
    – Alex B.
    Jul 22 '14 at 4:34

Meliorative: "(Linguistics) giving or acquiring a more favourable meaning or connotation (opposed to pejorative)" (OED, with lots of examples). The opposite of "peior" is "melior".


My friend Colin Fine hasn't posted it as an answer, so I will: ameliorative.

Colin and I both know the term from Lojban, but you can see it used applied to the Oceanic language Erromangan in An Erromangan (Sye) Grammar.


The closest thing I can think of are honorifics in a number of East Asian languages (most prominently, Japanese, but also Korean and Thai). See, for example, the entry about sonkeigo on wikipedia. Japanese also has a number of suffixes to proper names to indicate respect and deference (e.g., "-sama" 様, roughly translatable as "highly respected").

  • 1
    There is a difference between politeness levels (which reflect the social status of the speakers) and pejorative/meliorative variants (which reflect the speaker's attitude to the thing in question).
    – fdb
    Jul 5 '18 at 11:23

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