The Italian Suffix “-uccio/a” – What does it mean?

In our Facebook group, a common question we come across relates to the suffixes -uccio and -uccia. Many of our readers share that these suffixes were frequently added to their given names, yet their significance remained unknown to them.

But before we delve into the meaning of -uccio and -uccia, it is important to touch upon the topic of modified nouns and modifying suffixes.

italian suffix uccio

What is a modifying suffix?

A modifying suffix is added to a noun to create a new modified noun with a slightly different meaning, and there are lots of them in Italian! Below are a few of the most common ones you’ll encounter as a learner.

  • -ino
  • -one
  • -etto
  • -aglia
  • -otto
  • -astro
  • -accio
  • -ello
  • -(u)olo

The four different kinds of modified nouns are: diminutives (implying smallness), augmentatives (implying largeness), terms of endearment and pejoratives. For example:

  • Diminutive: cioccolato (chocolate) becomes cioccolatino (little chocolate)
  • Augmentative: libro (book) becomes librone (big book)
  • Term of endearment: orso (bear) becomes orsacchiotto (teddy bear)
  • Pejorative: parola (word) becomes parolaccia (swear word)

-uccio and -uccia, which derive from the Latin ucĕu(m), are just two examples of these modifying suffixes, belonging to the category of “diminutives” according to the Italian dictionary Devoto-Oli. However, their purpose is mainly to express affection and foster a sense of familiarity, so they are frequently placed in the “terms of endearment” category as well. (ThoughtCo) The plural forms are -ucci for masculine nouns and -ucce for feminine ones. For those of you who grew up in a Sicilian family, the equivalent is -uzzu.

Here are some common nouns that take -uccio/a:

  • caldo (hot / warm) becomes calduccio (warm and snug)
  • cavallo (horse) becomes cavalluccio (little horse)
  • amore (love) becomes amoruccio (darling / little love)
  • becco (beak) becomes beccuccio (spout)
Small boy wrapped in blanket sitting in mother's lap while she is giving him a cup of tea.
Il bambino è al calduccio. = The boy is snug and warm.

And if you thought these suffixes belonged to just two categories, think again! -uccio and -uccia can also have a negative connotation, as in affare (deal) and affaruccio (worthless deal) or roba (thing) and robuccia (poor quality stuff) (Treccani). Whether the meaning is positive or negative depends greatly on the surrounding context.

-Uccio/a added to personal names

My mother-in-law shared with me that her mother, Maria, was affectionately known as Mariuccia (“little Mary”) by those close to her, and was never called by her given name her entire life. Interestingly, my husband, in his childhood days, would fondly address her as Nonna Uccia, completely omitting the Maria part.

The practice of appending -uccio/a to given names is a common phenomenon throughout Italy. These endearing names exude a sweet and affectionate tone, frequently employed to convey warmth and tenderness. In fact, the prevalence of these pet names is so widespread that some, like the previously mentioned Mariuccia, have evolved into independent names in their own right!

All names can take the -uccio/a suffix but here are a few common examples:

  • Mario becomes Mariuccio (“little Mario”)
  • Paolo becomes Paoluccio (“little Paolo”)
  • Matteo becomes Matteuccio (“little Matteo”)
  • Carla becomes Carluccia (“little Carla”)
italian suffix uccio

Ethics statement: Below you will find affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking the link, we will receive a small commission. To know more about our ethics, you can visit our full disclosure page. Thank you!

Lingopie (affiliate link) is the Netflix of language learning application that uses real TV shows and movies to help you learn a new language. You can choose a show to watch based on your fluency level, and use the interactive subtitles to get instant translations to help you learn quickly.

Are you interested in improving your Italian in a fun and stress-free manner? Then we highly recommend Serena Capilli's short stories in Italian (affiliate link), designed for beginners, advanced beginners, and lower intermediate learners (A1-B1 CEFR). These stories have been optimised for English speakers in search of a fun, laid-back learning experience! Read our full review here.

Leave a Comment