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a suffix found in French loanwords of Latin origin, originally diminutive nouns, and later in adaptations of words borrowed directly from Latin or in New Latin coinages: article;conventicle;corpuscle;particle.
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Origin of -cle

From French, Old French, from Latin -culus, -cula, -culum, variant of -ulus -ule with nouns of the 3rd, 4th and 5th declensions, usually with the same gender as the base noun

Other definitions for -cle (2 of 2)


a suffix found in French loanwords of Latin origin, later in adaptations of words borrowed directly from Latin; in Latin, this suffix formed from verbs nouns that denoted a place appropriate to the action of the verb (cubicle, receptacle) or a means by which the action is performed (vehicle).

Origin of -cle

<French, Old French <Latin -culum, -cula<*-tlom,*-tlā
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does -cle mean?

The suffix -cle has two distinct senses.

The first of these senses is to denote a diminutive noun, meaning to indicate something small in size or importance. It is also used in other French loanwords from Latin. This form of -cle is occasionally used in a variety of everyday and technical terms. The suffix -cle comes from the Latin endings -culus (masculine), -cula (feminine), and -culum (neuter), which originally designated diminutive nouns.

The second of these senses is in words borrowed from Latin where it formed verb nouns that denoted a place appropriate to the action of the verb or means by which the action is performed. The suffix -cle comes from Latin -cula and -culum by way of French or Old French.

What are variants of -cle?

A variant of -cle in both senses of the suffix is -cule, as in molecule or ridicule. Want to know more? Read our Words That Use article on -cule.

Examples of -cle with the sense "diminutive noun"

One example of an everyday term that uses the suffix -cle is particle, “a minute portion, piece, fragment, or amount; a tiny or very small bit.”

The part- part of the word means “portion” or “piece.” The suffix -cle means “small” and denotes a diminutive. Particle literally translates to “small part.”

What are some words that use the combining form -cle?

What are some other forms that -cle may be commonly confused with?

Not every word that ends with the exact letters -cle, such as treacle or icicle, is necessarily using the suffix -cle to denote “diminutive” or “place where verb or action is performed.” Learn why treacle means “sentimental” at our entry for the word.

Break it down!

The combining form arti- means “joint.” With this in mind, what does article literally translate to?

How to use -cle in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for -cle


suffix forming nouns
indicating smallnesscubicle; particle

Word Origin for -cle

via Old French from Latin -culus. See -cule
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012