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

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

Indeed, nearly all Harbart’s inklings of a better life take mystical form. John Domini,, "‘Harbat’: Speaking to the dead, the living — and now Americans, too," 7 Aug. 2019 Stylistically, the publisher says, the works suggest inklings of Proust’s future writing, including striking metaphors and wry comedic insights. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Nine Newly Discovered Proust Stories to Be Published," 6 Aug. 2019 Some fans might've already had an inkling that Carter would be present during the VMAs. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Miley Cyrus and Kaitlynn Carter Went Out Together After the VMAs," 27 Aug. 2019 The houses on Wapping Avenue were built in 1991, before anyone had an inkling that a mineral called pyrrhotite would cause their foundations to start cracking and eventually fail 20 to 30 years later. Kathleen Mcwilliams,, "As repairs begin on homes with crumbling foundations, homeowners are encouraged by the progress," 2 Aug. 2019 Green had an inkling that Leonard would want to go his own route rather than join a team that already had two superstars. Tania Ganguli,, "Lakers’ Danny Green waited impatiently for Kawhi Leonard’s decision," 11 July 2019 The first inkling Robert Porcher had that Barry Sanders was considering retirement came immediately after the Detroit Lions’ season-ending loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 1998., "20 years ago, Barry Sanders retired and 'all hell broke loose'," 21 July 2019 There was a clear inkling in the lead-up to the draft that Bol could be in for a precipitous fall, but watching him slip all the way into the middle of the second round was still a bit of a shocker. Jeremy Woo,, "10 NBA Draft Thoughts: Bol Bol's Big Fall, Value Picks, and What to Expect in the Future," 21 June 2019 But there was no inkling Nelson might hurt someone, Giles said. James Queally,, "L.A. County sheriff’s deputy who was shot in random attack has died," 12 June 2019

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

18 Sep 2019

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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 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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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).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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