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[cheynj-ling] /ˈtʃeɪndʒ lɪŋ/
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.
1545-55; change + -ling1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for changeling
  • 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.
  • She discovers that she is a changeling with a special destiny that includes a handsome knight and a war.
  • He remains an ambiguous changeling, and so does she.
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
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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
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Encyclopedia Article for changeling

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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