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I've been reading some Latin of the 17th and 18th centuries and am wondering if it is possible for there to be "double diminutives." As I understand it, the word "cerebellum" (Oxford Latin = "brain") is a diminutive of "cerebrum" (also "brain"). But I've found an 18th-century author who coins the term "cerebellula." I know that "-ula" is another diminutive ending, so I'm wondering if it really might be the case that "cerebellula" is a double diminutive, meaning "little little brain" or "tiny brain."

Is this possible, and is there any classic/medieval/Renaissance Latin precedent for this move?

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Yes, double diminutives are possible in Latin. I found a few other examples from a search on Perseus of Lewis and Short (I looked for words ending in "llula", "llulus" and "llulum"):

  • arcellula < arcella < arca

    a very little box, Diom. p. 313 P.

  • lamellula < lamella < lamina

    a small plate of metal: “glebulas emi, lamellulas paravi,” Petr. 57, 6.

  • asellulus < asellus < asinus

    a small, young ass, Arn. 3, p. 109.

  • lapillulus < lapillus < lapis

    a very little stone, gravel-stone (late Lat.), Sol. 10, 12.

  • libellulus < libellus < liber

    a very little book (post-class.), Mart. Cap. 3, § 289.

  • cultellulus < cultellus < culter

    a little knife, Sol. 38.

  • agellulus < agellus < ager

    a very small field, Symm. Ep. 2, 30.

There were also other possible examples that I omitted because they were not as clear to me. Unfortunately, I do not have the expertise to explain how these were used.

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    Many more examples (with some false positives) are available here: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…
    – brianpck
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 20:06
  • So apparently the answer is YES! Very interesting, and great examples. Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 19:58
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There certainly are double diminutives in Latin. Here are some examples explicitly indicated in Lewis and Short:

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