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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

This indicates the nature of words like cockerel

Ock.--_Bullock_, _hillock_.

Kin.--_Lambkin_, _mannikin_, _ladikin_, &c. As is seen above, common in proper names.

En.--_Chicken_, _kitten_, from _cock_, _cat_. The notion of diminution, if indeed that be the notion originally conveyed, lies not in the -en, but in the vowel. In the word _chicken_, from _cock_, observe the effect of the small vowel on the c.

The consideration of words like _duckling_, and _gosling_, is purposely deferred.

The chief diminutive of classical origin is--

_Et_, as in _trumpet_, _lancet_, _pocket_; the word _pock_, as in _meal-pock_ = _a meal-bag_, being found in the Scottish. From the French -ette, as in _caissette_, _poulette_.

The forms -rel, as in _cockerel_, _pickerel_, and -let, as in _streamlet_, require a separate consideration. The first has nothing to do with the Italian forms _acquerella_ and _coserella_--themselves, perhaps, of Gothic, rather than of classical origin.

In the Old High-German there are a multitude of diminutive forms in -el; as _ouga_ = _an eye_, _ougili_ = _a little eye_; _lied_ = _a song_, _liedel_ = _a little song_. This indicates the nature of words like _cockerel_.

Even in English the diminutive power of -el can be traced in the following words:--

_Soare_ = a deer in its third year. _Sor-rel_--a deer in its second year.--See "Love's Labour Lost," with the note.

_Tiercel_ = a small sort of hawk, one-third less (_tierce_) than the common kind.

_Kantle_ = _small corner_, from _cant_ = _a corner_.--"Henry IV."

_Hurdle_; in Dutch _horde_; German, _hurde_. _Hording_, without the -l, is used in an allied sense by builders in English.

In the words in point we must assume an earlier form, _cocker_ and _piker_, to which the diminutive form -el is affixed. If this be true, we have, in English, representatives of the diminutive form -el so common in the High Germanic dialects. _Wolfer_ = _a wolf_, _hunker_ = _a haunch_, _flitcher_ = _a flitch_, _teamer_ = _a team_, _fresher_ = _a frog_,--these are north country forms of the present English.

The termination -let, as in _streamlet_, seems to be double, and to consist of the Gothic diminutive -l, and the French diminutive -t.

s. 271. _Augmentatives._--Compared with _capello_ = _a hat_, the Italian word _capellone_ = _a great hat_, is an augmentative. The augmentative forms, pre-eminently common in the Italian language, often carry with them a depreciating sense.

The termination -rd (in Old High German, -hart), as in _drunkard_, _braggart_, _laggard_, _stinkard_, carries with it this idea of depreciation. In _buzzard_, and _reynard_, the name of the fox, it is simply augmentative. In _wizard_, from _witch_, it has the power of a masculine form.

The termination -rd, taken from the Gothic, appears in the modern languages of classical origin: French, _vieillard_; Spanish, _codardo_. From these we get, at secondhand, the word _coward_.

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