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-ling

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

1
Middle English, Old English; cognate with German -ling, Old Norse -lingr, Gothic -lings; see -le, -ing1

-ling

2
  1. an adverbial suffix expressing direction, position, state, etc.: darkling; sideling.
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Origin of -ling

2
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

-ling

1
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
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Word Origin for -ling

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

-ling

2
suffix forming adverbs
  1. in a specified condition, manner, or directiondarkling; sideling
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Word Origin for -ling

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper