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.
a renegade or turncoat.
an imbecile.

1545–55; change + -ling1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
changeling (ˈtʃeɪndʒlɪŋ)
1.  a child believed to have been exchanged by fairies for the parents' true child
2.  archaic
 a.  an idiot
 b.  a fickle or changeable person

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1555, "one given to change," from change + dim. suffix -ling. Meaning "person or thing left in place of one secretly taken" is from 1561; 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 1584. An earlier word for it was oaf or auf.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in European folklore, a deformed or imbecilic offspring of fairies or elves substituted by them surreptitiously for a human infant. According to legend, the abducted human children are given to the devil or used to strengthen fairy stock. The return of the original child may be effected by making the changeling laugh or by torturing it; this latter belief was responsible for numerous cases of actual child abuse.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The great singer was one of those for whom the word changeling was invented.
Playing the flute triggers his gift as a changeling, and each night he turns into a pack rat.
He remains an ambiguous changeling, and so does she.
She discovers that she is a changeling with a special destiny that includes a handsome knight and a war.
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