• synonyms


  1. in the dark.
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  1. growing dark.
  2. being or occurring in the dark; dark; obscure.
  3. vaguely threatening or menacing.
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Origin of darkling

First recorded in 1400–50, darkling is from the late Middle English word derkeling. See dark, -ling2


[dahr-kuh l]
verb (used without object), dar·kled, dar·kling.
  1. to appear dark; show indistinctly.
  2. to grow dark, gloomy, etc.
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Origin of darkle

1790–1800; back formation from darkling, adv. taken as present participle
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for darkling

Historical Examples

  • Immediately the square of darkling sky was eclipsed by the cabby's face.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • The gloom of the darkling forests, too, had passed into the sunlit parks of delight.

    The Golden Woman

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • A darkling shade settled on the face of the devoted secretary.


    Joseph Conrad

  • The cold, steely, darkling sweep of desert had been transformed.

  • Not that my desire failed, but aid came not to ferry me over the darkling waters.


    Richard Short

British Dictionary definitions for darkling


adverb, adjective
  1. in the dark or night
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  1. darkening or almost dark; obscure
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Word Origin

C15: from dark + -ling ²


verb archaic, or literary
  1. to grow dark; darken
  2. (intr) to appear dark or indistinct
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Word Origin

C19: back formation from darkling
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 darkling

"in the dark," mid-15c., from dark (n.) + now-obsolete adverbial ending -ling.

But having nothing to do with the participial -ing it does not mean growing dark &c.; from the mistaken notion that it is a participle spring both the misuse of the word itself and the spurious verb darkle. [Fowler]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper