Dratini's name is an interesting combination. Dratini is a combination of dragon and a corruption of the word tiny. It is used as tini instead tiny as a phrase to indicate smallness. -ini is also an Italian suffix, applied to a word to imply endearment or smallness. Despite the meaning, though, Dratini is actually a tall or long pokemon. It measures out at 5'11" and does stop growing. However, it is small compare to the size of the evolve forms, Dragonair, whose length is 13'01".
Dratini appears in a snake-like body or a sea serpent. This form for dragons is actually the traditional form for Japanese Dragons and Chinese Dragons which bring good luck. The story of Dratini also associates it with the Lock Ness Monster for it was considered to be a myth for a long time.
Dratini's Japanese name, Miniriyu, is combined of two words: Miniture which is tiny or small and ryu which means dragon.