- a suffix of nouns, often pejorative, denoting one concerned with (hireling; underling), or diminutive (princeling; duckling).
Origin of -ling1
- an adverbial suffix expressing direction, position, state, etc.: darkling; sideling.
Origin of -ling2
- often derogatory a person or thing belonging to or associated with the group, activity, or quality specifiednestling; underling
- used as a diminutiveduckling
- in a specified condition, manner, or directiondarkling; sideling
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.