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  1. a suffix of nouns formed from verbs, expressing the action of the verb or its result, product, material, etc. (the art of building; a new building; cotton wadding). It is also used to form nouns from words other than verbs (offing; shirting). Verbal nouns ending in -ing are often used attributively (the printing trade) and in forming compounds (drinking song). In some compounds (sewing machine), the first element might reasonably be regarded as the participial adjective, -ing2, the compound thus meaning “a machine that sews,” but it is commonly taken as a verbal noun, the compound being explained as “a machine for sewing.”
Compare -ing2.

Origin of -ing1

Middle English; Old English -ing, -ung


  1. a suffix forming the present participle of verbs (walking; thinking), such participles being often used as participial adjectives: warring factions.
Compare -ing1.

Origin of -ing2

Middle English -ing, -inge; the variant -in (usually represented in spelling as -inʾ) continues Middle English -inde, -ende, Old English -ende

Pronunciation note

The common suffix -ing2 can be pronounced in modern English as either [‐ing] /‐ɪŋ/ or [‐in] /‐ɪn/, with either the velar nasal consonant [ng] /ŋ/, symbolized in IPA as [ŋ], or the alveolar nasal consonant [n] /n/, symbolized in IPA as [n]. The [‐in] /‐ɪn/ pronunciation therefore reflects the use of one nasal as against another and not, as is popularly supposed, “dropping the g, ” since no actual g -sound is involved.
Many speakers use both pronunciations, depending on the speed of utterance and the relative formality of the occasion, with [‐ing] /‐ɪŋ/ considered the more formal variant. For some educated speakers, especially in the southern United States and Britain, [‐in] /‐ɪn/ is in fact the more common pronunciation, while for other educated speakers, [‐ing] /‐ɪŋ/ is common in virtually all circumstances. In response to correction from perceived authorities, many American speakers who would ordinarily use [‐in] /‐ɪn/ at least some of the time make a conscious effort to say [‐ing] /‐ɪŋ/, even in informal circumstances.


  1. a native English suffix meaning “one belonging to,” “of the kind of,” “one descended from,” and sometimes having a diminutive force, formerly used in the formation of nouns: farthing; shilling; bunting; gelding; whiting.
Compare -ling1.

Origin of -ing3

Middle English, Old English -ing, cognate with Old Norse -ingr, -ungr, Gothic -ings
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for -ing


suffix forming nouns
  1. (from verbs) the action of, process of, result of, or something connected with the verbcoming; meeting; a wedding; winnings
  2. (from other nouns) something used in, consisting of, involving, etctubing; soldiering
  3. (from other parts of speech)an outing

Word Origin

Old English -ing, -ung


  1. forming the present participle of verbswalking; believing
  2. forming participial adjectivesa growing boy; a sinking ship
  3. forming adjectives not derived from verbsswashbuckling

Word Origin

Middle English -ing, -inde, from Old English -ende


suffix forming nouns
  1. a person or thing having a certain quality or being of a certain kindsweeting; whiting

Word Origin

Old English -ing; related to Old Norse -ingr
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

Word Origin and History for -ing


suffix attached to verbs to mean their action, result, product, material, etc., from Old English -ing, -ung, from Proto-Germanic *unga (cf. Old Norse -ing, Dutch -ing, German -ung). Originally used to form nouns from verbs and to denote completed or habitual action. Its use has been greatly expanded in Middle and Modern English.


suffix used form the present participle of verbs, from Old English -ende (cf. German -end, Gothic -and, Sanskrit -ant, Greek -on, Latin -ans). It evolved into -ing in 13c.-14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper