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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for changeling

Contemporary Examples of changeling

  • To be fair, and slightly ashamed of myself, I did not watch Changeling.

    The Daily Beast logo
    If I Ran the Oscars

    Jessi Klein

    January 23, 2009

Historical Examples of changeling

  • 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

  • What was the dear Pums saying with regard to her changeling?

    A Modern Tomboy

    L. T. Meade

  • I tell you I'm a changeling, and changelings can't be taught.

    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

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

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