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See also: lein, Lein, and LEIN


Alternative forms[edit]

  • -el, -l (chiefly dialectal)
  • -le (chiefly dialectal)
  • -li (in Swiss)
  • -lin (chiefly Early New High German)
  • -elein (chiefly in poetry)


From Middle High German -elīn, -līn, from Old High German -ilī, -ilīn.[1] Cognate to Dutch -lijn and English -ling.


  • IPA(key): /laɪ̯n/
  • (file)


-lein (plural -lein or -leins or -erlein)

  1. suffix used to create a diminutive form; e.g., KindKindlein

Usage notes[edit]

  • In contemporary Standard German -lein is usual with words whose stems end in -ch and, to a lesser degree, in -g; thus more often Bächlein (little brook) than Bächelchen. There is also a limited number of other forms that remain in common use, but in most cases -lein now has a poetic and archaic tone. The general diminutive suffix in the written language and in northern speech is -chen, while southern informal use prefers regional suffixes like -le, -li (Swabian/Alemannic) and -erl (Austro-Bavarian).
  • The plural generally remains unchanged as it does with diminutives in -chen. A few nouns with a plural in -er may carry the same ending over to the plural diminutive. This is common with KindleinKinderlein (and equally KindchenKinderchen); otherwise it is rare. A few nouns referring to people allow a plural in -s. This is common with FräuleinFräuleins; otherwise it is, again, rare.

Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kluge, Friedrich (1989), “-lein”, in Elmar Seebold, editor, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache [Etymological dictionary of the German language] (in German), 22nd edition, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, →ISBN