In Spanish Language, we use diminutives to shorten the definitions of time and space. Although these are words that technically do not exist in the dictionary, they are widely used on daily basis and applied for many circumstances.
When learning Spanish, this is ‘a must understand’ for you to communicate and use it yourself. The most common ones you will hear are ‘ratito’, ‘momentito’, ‘despuesito’ and ‘rapidito’; but the most special one is ‘ahorita’, for it has different meanings depending on the context of the situation.
So, How does a diminutive to shorten time works?... well, it is as simple as it seems, but it also has an extra meaning that goes with it. You use this diminutive ‘technique’ to answer to a situation or request.
For example… You visit a hardware store to buy something and all the employees are busy attending other customers, then one approaches to you and says ‘por favor espere un MOMENTITO, pronto estaré con usted ('please wait a minute, I will soon be with you').
So as you can see, the word ‘momentito’ has been used to say that the period of time is shorter, for it you hear ‘momento’ means a longer period of time, which can still be short, but not as short as ‘momentito’.
You use a diminutive not just to shorten time, but to ask for a little patience at the same time, that you will soon do what you have been asked or requested to do (this is very important to understand). Using this technique is considered friendly or cordial in Guatemala (and in Latin America in general). Not using it sounds a little more serious and depending on the situation and tone, it might sound imperative.
So let's break it up a little so we can understand the measure of time for each word: The word ‘despues’ (later) has the longest period of time, ‘despuesito’ is a little shorter than that; ‘un rato **’ (a while) in Spanish means a medium portion of time, ‘un ratito’ (a little while) is shorter; and ‘un momento’ (a moment) is the short period time, ‘un momentito’ of course is shorter than that.
** There is one particular situation when defining this word. For instance,the Spanish expression ‘al rato’ (later) means a longer period of time, and depending on the situation or context of the conversation, it could mean even days. This is because we consider a ‘rato’ as time unit (un rato, as in 1 rato), so for ‘al rato’, the word ‘al’ points a ‘rato’ unit further ahead.
Which leaves the word ‘AHORA’ (now) as the shortest measurement of time… so you might think… now is ‘now’, how can be something shorter than that ?!... well, in Spanish there is. And this is why the word ‘ahorita’ is special. Just like we said, now is NOW, but in Spanish in Latin America, ‘Now’ has a time measurement of around 60 seconds… the word ‘ahorita’ means then like 15 seconds…. Or something like that. But you can also say ‘ahorititita’, which means ‘right now’, or ‘immediately’. In fact, the world ‘ahora’ is rarely used in Latin America Spanish.
Finally, the word ‘rapido’ (fast), can be shorten to ‘rapidito’, to indicate that is is ‘much faster’, this is widely used, just like ‘ahorita’.