a slight suggestion or indication; hint; intimation: They hadn't given us an inkling of what was going to happen.
a vague idea or notion; slight understanding: They didn't have an inkling of how the new invention worked.

1505–15; obsolete inkle to hint (Middle English inklen) + -ing1; akin to Old English inca suspicion Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
inkling (ˈɪŋklɪŋ)
a slight intimation or suggestion; suspicion
[C14: probably from inclen to hint at; related to Old English inca]

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

c.1400, apparently from the gerund of M.E. verb inclen "utter in an undertone" (mid-14c.), which perhaps is related to O.E. inca "doubt, suspicion."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
So, from the first inkling of an idea until submission can be a year or two for
The first inkling of financial difficulties in here surfaced in the chow hall.
Punters typically have no inkling of where their meal was caught.
But otherwise you have no inkling that the face is there, even though your left
  eye has been staring at it for many minutes.
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