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[cheynj-ling] /ˈtʃeɪndʒ lɪŋ/
a child surreptitiously or unintentionally substituted for another.
(in folklore) an ugly, stupid, or strange child left by fairies in place of a pretty, charming child.
Philately. a postage stamp that, by accident or intention, has been chemically changed in color.
  1. a renegade or turncoat.
  2. an imbecile.
Origin of changeling
First recorded in 1545-55; change + -ling1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for changeling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The changeling inherits, and the process is repeated, step by step.

    The Cuckoo Clock Wesley Barefoot
  • They then reproached me, saying, I was a changeling, and an evil spirit.

    The Autobiography of Madame Guyon Jeanne Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon
  • I tell you I'm a changeling, and changelings can't be taught.

    A Modern Tomboy L. T. Meade
  • What was the dear Pums saying with regard to her changeling?

    A Modern Tomboy L. T. Meade
  • She called Irene a fairy, a changeling, and nothing could soothe her or comfort her.

    A Modern Tomboy L. T. Meade
  • Irene isn't a changeling at all, and she never had anything to do with the fairies.

    A Modern Tomboy L. T. Meade
  • One more story of a "changeling" before we leave the subject.

    German Culture Past and Present Ernest Belfort Bax
  • To which I answer, 'I am a changeling, and that's sufficient, I think.

  • When Eben came home from his successful sales, he found a changeling.

    Country Neighbors

    Alice Brown
British Dictionary definitions for changeling


a child believed to have been exchanged by fairies for the parents' true child
  1. an idiot
  2. a fickle or changeable person
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
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Word Origin and History for changeling

1550s, "one given to change," from change (n.) + diminutive suffix -ling. Meaning "person or thing left in place of one secretly taken" is from 1560s; specific reference to an infant or young child (usually stupid or ugly) supposedly left by the faeries in place of one they took is from 1580s. An earlier word for it was oaf or auf.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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