in·​kling ˈiŋ-kliŋ How to pronounce inkling (audio)
: a slight knowledge or vague notion
had not the faintest inkling of what it was all aboutH. W. Carter
: a slight indication or suggestion : hint, clue
there was no path—no inkling even of a trackNew Yorker

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."

Example Sentences

did not give the slightest inkling that he was planning to quit
Recent Examples on the Web The earliest inkling came during a trip to Austria in the late 1990s, when Bernard took his sons on a seven-hour drive to an unknown destination. Rebecca Frankel, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Jan. 2023 Like her husband, her first inkling of impending change also came second-hand. Eric Walden, The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Sep. 2022 Safety John Johnson III had no inkling after the game whether or not Woods would be back. cleveland, 9 Jan. 2023 An inkling of the Republican Party’s shocking underperformance in the midterms could be seen in a literal, not figurative, crusade. Graham Gallagher, The New Republic, 25 Nov. 2022 But there is a way to still reach visitors who had an inkling to stop by but perhaps weren’t ready to make a purchase yet. Brandon Batchelor, Forbes, 2 Aug. 2022 Hopefully fans will get some inkling of what’s next from Naughty Dog, Bioware, Square Enix, and video gaming’s other most popular developers, along with cool new indie titles that are a little harder to predict this far out. Richard Newby, Time, 18 Dec. 2022 As the season begins, Rowan Fielding has no inkling of her true heritage, let alone the dark legacy attached to it. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 Jan. 2023 This one had inkling that might be happen soon with signs on Friday, but the real show occurred overnight on Sunday (April 1) with an early morning eruption. Erik Klemetti, Discover Magazine, 2 Apr. 2012 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of inkling was in 1513


Dictionary Entries Near inkling

Cite this Entry

“Inkling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​kling ˈiŋ-kliŋ How to pronounce inkling (audio)
: a vague notion : hint
didn't have an inkling of what it all meant

More from Merriam-Webster on inkling

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