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Italian Language/use of suffix "otto"


Dear Lauren,  

Can you please tell me if –otto is a suffix in the word “poliziotto”  (policeman)

If “yes”-  is the root word supposed to be “polizia”  (police)

Is the suffix “otto”  used to convey the meaning of “smallness”?
If "yes" I am confused why "otto" would be used to describe a policeman.

Thank you very, very much.



Hi Rich,

The suffix -otto does usually mean 'small' but in this case, it has a slightly ironic use aimed at giving the police a derogatory reputation by playing down their size. So rather than saying the neutral 'polizia', 'poliziotto' gives them a more negative spin equivalent to 'the cop' or 'the fuzz' in English.

Italian has several suffixes that are used quite often and they are well worth remembering:

As well as 'otto' for small, you can also use ino/a/i/e, -etto/a/i/e, -ello/a/i/e, and -uccio, -uccia, -ucci, -ucce

one/-ona for largeness

-accio, -accia, -acci, and -acce for badness or ugliness (hence parolaccia for swearword)

Hope this helps,
Kind regards,

Italian Language

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Lauren O' Hagan


Although not my mother tongue, I have spoken Italian fluently for more than 12 years so I am very confident to answer any questions about the Italian language. I am also competent in Roman Dialect if there are any questions relating to this.


MA Applied Linguistics First Class Honours in Modern Language Studies (Linguistics, Italian, Spanish) Received the top grade in the whole of UK for GCSE Italian, receiving a letter of congratulations from the Italian Consulate Completed my two-year A Level in 1 year with a grade A country. Carried out many translation jobs for a wide range of clients and topics including self-help, literature and exam papers. For personal reference, I have also translated Federico Moccia's Tre Metri Sopra Il Cielo and 2 of Francesco Totti's book.

El Pensador, University of Bristol

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