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

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

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an adverbial suffix expressing direction, position, state, etc.: darkling; sideling.

Middle English, Old English; adv. use of gradational variant lang long1

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
suffix forming nouns
1.  derogatory often a person or thing belonging to or associated with the group, activity, or quality specified: nestling; underling
2.  used as a diminutive: duckling
[Old English -ling, of Germanic origin; related to Icelandic -lingr, Gothic -lings]

suffix forming adverbs
in a specified condition, manner, or direction: darkling; sideling
[Old English -ling, adverbial suffix]

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Word Origin & History

dim. suffix, early 14c., from O.E. -ling a nominal suffix (not originally dim.), from P.Gmc. *-linga-; attested in historical Gmc. languages as a simple suffix, but probably representing a fusion of the suffixes represented by Eng. -le (cf. icicle,
thimble, handle), O.E. -ol, -ul, -el; and -ing, suffix indicating "person or thing of a specific kind or origin; in masc. nouns also "son of" (cf. farthing, atheling, O.E. 'horing "adulterer, fornicator"). Both these suffixes had occasional dim. force, but this was only slightly evident in O.E. -ling and its equivalents in Gmc. languages except O.N., 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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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