in·kling | \ˈiŋ-kliŋ \

Definition of inkling 

1 : a slight indication or suggestion : hint, clue there was no path—no inkling even of a trackNew Yorker

2 : a slight knowledge or vague notion had not the faintest inkling of what it was all about— H. W. Carter

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Originating in English in the early 16th century, inkling derives from Middle English yngkiling, meaning "whisper or mention," and perhaps further from the verb inclen, meaning "to hint at." It also shares a distant relationship with the Old English noun inca, meaning "suspicion." An early sense of the word meant "a faint perceptible sound or undertone" or "rumor," but now people usually use the word to refer to a tiny bit of knowledge or information that a person receives about something. One related word you might not have heard of is the verb inkle, a back-formation of inkling that occurs in some British English dialects and means "to have an idea or notion of."

Examples of inkling in a Sentence

did not give the slightest inkling that he was planning to quit

Recent Examples on the Web

The ad relies on preexisting inklings about the city, like the one perpetuated by the television show Frasier, as a bucolic paradise for outdoor life and white-collar professionalism. Dae Shik Kim Hawkins, The Atlantic, "An App for Ejecting the Homeless," 28 June 2018 From the very first inklings of the republic, America was part of something bigger than itself. Mark Sappenfield, The Christian Science Monitor, "The largest patriotism," 3 July 2018 The two started together at a WTA tournament in Prague in April of last year, with little inkling that a Grand Slam title was weeks away. Ben Rothenberg, New York Times, "A Tennis Champion’s Coach Returns to the Court," 31 May 2018 Meanwhile, his counterparts in Europe and Asia have some inkling of the U.S. calendar. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "A Foreigner’s Guide to Trade War," 26 June 2018 Do any of these jokers have an inkling of how posterity will view this week’s videos of them skulking away from reporters in the Capitol’s corridors or making mealy-mouth statements while staring down at the floor? Frank Rich, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Jerusalem Horror Show," 16 May 2018 Not that the photographer who owns the rights has collected for all this — or even had much of an inkling. Eric Moskowitz,, "A Celtics-Sixers photo for the ages. And the photographer behind the shot.," 7 May 2018 An Italian immigrant who arrived from Sicily around 1910, Candela studied to become an architect at Columbia University, where Beaux Arts classical knowhow was still valued but inklings of pragmatic modern functionalism were seeping in from abroad. Julie V. Iovine, WSJ, "‘Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela’ Review: King of Apartments," 29 May 2018 Another classmate, Brooke Williams, reached by Facebook, agreed that there had been no inkling this week of the violence to come. Bob Ortega, CNN, "Santa Fe shooting survivor at vigil: 'All that was going through my head was to get out'," 19 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inkling.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of inkling

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for inkling

Middle English yngkiling whisper, mention, probably from inclen to hint at; akin to Old English inca suspicion

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about inkling

Listen to Our Podcast about inkling

Dictionary Entries near inkling

ink knife





ink mushroom

ink pad

Statistics for inkling

Last Updated

21 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inkling

The first known use of inkling was in 1513

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for inkling



English Language Learners Definition of inkling

: a slight, uncertain idea about something : a slight amount of knowledge about something


in·kling | \ˈiŋ-kliŋ \

Kids Definition of inkling

: a vague notion : hint She hadn't an inkling there was a problem.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on inkling

What made you want to look up inkling? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!