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Affixes: the building blocks of English
Affixes: the building blocks of English

-let

A thing of a smaller or lesser kind.

[Originally from French -ette, added to nouns ending in -el.]

Some words were formed in medieval times from French diminutive nouns, but that sense has largely been lost in English. Examples include bracelet (French bras, arm), gauntlet (French gant, glove), hamlet (French hamel, little village), tablet (Old French tablete, from a diminutive of Latin tabula, table), and toilet (French toile, cloth).

The ending became popular in the eighteenth century; in the nineteenth century it became—and remains—a common word-forming element in the language. Most suggest something small of its kind, though this idea has softened in some with the passage of time. Examples include booklet, cloudlet, droplet, hooklet, leaflet, moonlet, notelet, piglet, ringlet, rootlet, starlet, statelet, streamlet, and wavelet.

A doublet was originally a man's short close-fitting padded jacket; later it came to mean either of a pair of similar things, which gave rise by imitation to triplet and quadruplet.

On the model of bracelet, some other words for articles of adornment have been created: anklet, armlet, necklet, wristlet.

See also -et and -ette.

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