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

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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

Meripet has at least an inkling of where her children are. Yanan Wang And Dake Kang, Fox News, "China distances children from families to subdue Muslim west," 20 Sep. 2018 There's the remarkably mature over-achiever, two years younger than her classmates, who's just learning her first inklings of humility (in part by losing in these competitions). John Timmer, Ars Technica, "See Science Fair even if you’ve never entered one in your life," 16 Sep. 2018 Seems like Modern Salon had an inkling that this look would blow up and tapped Daniel Rangel (@cosmodanielkc) for a quick tutorial video last year. Janell Hickman, Allure, ""Flannel Hair" Is the Fabric-Inspired Color Trend Trend That's Got Us Psyched for Fall," 16 Aug. 2018 In addition to classic characters, there are also new additions like Metroid villain Ridley and the Splatoon inklings. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Castlevania’s Simon Belmont is coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate," 8 Aug. 2018 This is the first inkling of magic from horse and man. Tim Layden,, "Remembering Chic Anderson’s Legendary Call of Secretariat’s Record Run at 1973 Belmont Stakes," 4 June 2018 But the open letter is not the first inkling of trouble at CB1. Carolina A. Miranda,, "CB1 Gallery in the Arts District to close after artists allege nonpayment," 20 Apr. 2018 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

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 1

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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Dictionary Entries near inkling

ink knife





ink mushroom

ink pad

Statistics for inkling

Last Updated

27 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for inkling

The first known use of inkling was in 1513

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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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on inkling

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inkling

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inkling

Spanish Central: Translation of inkling

Nglish: Translation of inkling for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inkling for Arabic Speakers

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).


living or existing for a long time

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