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What does the letter l at the end of the word Christkindl mean? My understanding is that the English child translates to the German Kind. Does the l make the word diminutive? When is it appropriate to add the l to a German noun?

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    Christkind-l(ein) Note that the short form(s) are regional only! – TaW Feb 3 '17 at 10:12
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It is a diminutive suffix used in Bavarian and perhaps some other south-German dialects. Christkind (without the -l) is perfectly fine German.

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    Compare -le, the Swabian diminutive suffix and -(e)rl in some regions of Austria / Southern Tyrol. – Stephie Feb 3 '17 at 7:26
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    Note that one of the standard diminutive suffixes is -lein, so -l may be a diminutive version of the diminutive. – Kilian Foth Feb 3 '17 at 7:27
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    vgl. Hänsel und Gretel – Carsten S Feb 3 '17 at 7:33
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    @Stephie or -la in some areas of Franconia – eckes Feb 3 '17 at 9:59
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    And -li in Swiss German. – CodeMonkey Feb 3 '17 at 10:29
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»Christkindl« is a diminutive of »Christkind«.


German has lots of regional differences (it is a pluricentric language), and the grammar of diminutives is one aspect of German language, that varies over the regions.

The suffix -chen is valid everywhere where people speak German:

Der Sack - das Säckchen
The bag - the small bag

Das Kind - das Kindchen
the child - the small child

This works for almost all nouns and it is standard everywhere. Add the suffix -chen and sometimes change a vowel in the stem to an umlaut. No matter what gender the word was before, the diminutive is always neuter. (This is true for all kinds of German diminutives.)

Also -lein works everywhere and is everywhere standard

Der Sack - das Säcklein
The bag - the small bag

Das Kind - das Kindlein
the child - the small child


But in regions where a Bavarian dialect is spoken, there is an alternative ways to build a diminutive:

Der Sack - das Sackerl
The bag - the small bag

Das Kind - das Kinderl
the child - the small child

Notice, that some words, build by this pattern, are part of standard Austrian German (i.e. not dialect words). Examples are Sackerl (see above) and Krügerl (a jug for 0.5 liter beer). But no word ending with the Bavarian diminutive -erl is part of standard German German.
But »Kinderl« has dialect-status in all standard variations of German (also in standard Austrian German).


In Switzerland and Swabia you will find -li and -le as diminutive-suffixes:

Der Sack - das Säckli
The bag - the small bag

Das Kind - das Kindle
the child - the small child


There is also the one-letter-suffix -l as you found it in »Kindl« or »Christkindl«. It is a short version of -erl, -li and -le and is not part of any standard variation.

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The final -l is indeed a diminutive. The non-diminuted version is simply Christkind as the other answer says and is easily understood by translating.

The diminutive final -l is Bavarian and an alternate form of the more common Bavarian diminutive -erl. Depending on the consonant sound that preceeds the diminutive, either one of the two may be preferred. For example, it is reasonably common to say Kindl even when not referring to the Christkindl: the person on Munich’s coat of arms is called the Münchner Kindl. For a word such as Haus, both Heisl and Heiserl are acceptable diminutives. For Ball, which already ends in l, adding another -l would not create an audible difference hence the diminutive would commonly be Ballerl. I’m sure there are beter examples that are escaping my thoughts at the moment.

Sometimes, the ending that looks like a diminutive is actually no longer perceived as one. One example from Austrian German would be Sackerl which translates into Tüte or Tasche in German German. A different example is the Bavarian word Radl meaning bicycle. The latter applies to all kinds, shapes and sizes and allows a distinction between a wheel (Rad) and a bicycle (Radl). While Radl is no longer perceived as a diminutive, it cannot acquire another diminutive ending; the only way to say small bicycle is to indeed say kleines Radl. On the other hand, Hochradl or riesiges Radl are no problem semantically.

Both -erl and -l are closely related to corresponding diminutives of neighbouring dialects: Swabian -le, Swiss -li and Franconian -la. Indeed, I have heard Swabians say Christkindle and Franconians say Chistkindla. Probably the only reason why I haven’t yet heard any Swiss say Christchindli (assuming that the k is modified as usually in Swiss dialects) is because I don’t know any Swiss.

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One original diminutive of Kind is "Kindlein." (There are others such as Kinderl.)

So "Kindl" is an abbreviation of one of the other diminutives that is a abbreviation of a diminutive.

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