in·​kling | \ ˈiŋ-kliŋ How to pronounce inkling (audio) \

Definition of inkling

1 : a slight knowledge or vague notion had not the faintest inkling of what it was all about— H. W. Carter
2 : a slight indication or suggestion : hint, clue there was no path—no inkling even of a trackNew Yorker

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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 first inkling came March 6 when Austin officials canceled one of the nation’s largest music festivals and tech conventions, South by Southwest. Dom Difurio, Dallas News, "Dallas hopes to lead an in-person tourism revival this fall despite climbing COVID cases," 15 Oct. 2020 During a sweep through manufacturing powerhouse Guangdong province this week, the Chinese leader gave an inkling of what’s to come., "Xi Expected to Lay Out Vision for Greater Bay in Shenzhen Speech," 13 Oct. 2020 One more win in October 2020 and James, probably for the only time in his life, will have an inkling of how Jackson’s crown feels. Marc Stein, New York Times, "LeBron James Is Mr. October This Year," 7 Oct. 2020 Watching a rerun of the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld gave me the first inkling that COVID-19 might be rearranging my mind for the long term. Philip Kiefer, National Geographic, "Will we ever trust crowds again?," 29 Sep. 2020 The chilly instructions of Mrs. Medlock to the girl to keep to her assigned rooms and not go exploring contribute to a setup that almost feels like a ghost story, an inkling fueled by strange noises in the night. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Secret Garden': Film Review," 5 Aug. 2020 Fahlman said the first inkling that something was wrong came July 16 when a staff member who didn’t work with children started feeling sick and went home. oregonlive, "25 campers and staff test positive for COVID-19 in Oregon’s first large summer camp outbreak," 4 Aug. 2020 Like any show with two multidimensional Black leads that has even the inkling of buzz, my hopes were high for Trigonometry. Kathleen Newman-bremang,, "The British Dramedy Fleabag Fans Will Want To Stream Right Now," 3 Aug. 2020 Gallegos-Doering had an inkling of what might be coming, even as Hammon took on bigger-name players, including high school All-Americans. Mike Singer, The Denver Post, "Underestimated but undeterred: Colorado State legend Becky Hammon is on a path like no other," 7 June 2020

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.

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First Known Use of inkling

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for inkling

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

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Time Traveler for inkling

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The first known use of inkling was in 1513

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Last Updated

25 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inkling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for inkling


How to pronounce inkling (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inkling

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


in·​kling | \ ˈiŋ-kliŋ How to pronounce inkling (audio) \

Kids Definition of inkling

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

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