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  1. a suffix of nouns, often pejorative, denoting one concerned with (hireling; underling), or diminutive (princeling; duckling).

Origin of -ling1

Middle English, Old English; cognate with German -ling, Old Norse -lingr, Gothic -lings; see -le, -ing1


  1. an adverbial suffix expressing direction, position, state, etc.: darkling; sideling.

Origin of -ling2

Middle English, Old English; adv. use of gradational variant lang long1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for -ling


suffix forming nouns
  1. often derogatory a person or thing belonging to or associated with the group, activity, or quality specifiednestling; underling
  2. used as a diminutiveduckling

Word Origin

Old English -ling, of Germanic origin; related to Icelandic -lingr, Gothic -lings


suffix forming adverbs
  1. in a specified condition, manner, or directiondarkling; sideling

Word Origin

Old English -ling, adverbial suffix
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 -ling

diminutive word-forming element, early 14c., from Old English -ling a nominal suffix (not originally diminutive), from Proto-Germanic *-linga-; attested in historical Germanic languages as a simple suffix, but probably representing a fusion of the suffixes represented by English -le (cf. icicle, thimble, handle), from Old English -ol, -ul, -el; and -ing, suffix indicating "person or thing of a specific kind or origin;" in masculine nouns also "son of" (cf. farthing, atheling, Old English horing "adulterer, fornicator").

Both these suffixes had occasional diminutive force, but this was only slightly evident in Old English -ling and its equivalents in Germanic languages except Norse, where it commonly was used as a diminutive suffix, especially in words designating the young of animals (e.g. gæslingr "gosling"). Thus it is possible that the diminutive use that developed in Middle English is from Old Norse.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper