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From change +‎ -ling.


  • IPA(key): /ˈt͡ʃeɪnd͡ʒlɪŋ/
  • (file)


changeling (plural changelings)

  1. (mythology) In pre-modern European mythology, an infant that was secretly exchanged for a mother's own baby by an evil creature. (In British, Irish and Scandinavian mythology the exchanged infants were thought to be those of fairies, sprites or trolls; in other places, they were ascribed to witches, devils, or demons.)
    • 1961, Muriel Saint Clare Byrne, Elizabethan Life in Town and Country, page 285:
      His nurse had told him all about changelings, and how the little people would always try to steal a beautiful human child out of its cradle and put in its stead one of their own ailing, puking brats []
  2. (informal, rare) An infant secretly exchanged with another infant by mistake or by human doing; swapling.
  3. (science fiction and fantasy) An organism which can change shape to mimic others.
  4. (obsolete) A simpleton; an idiot.
    • 1670, John Dryden, Tyrannick Love:
      Changelings and fools of heaven, and thence shut out.
  5. (obsolete) One apt to change; a waverer.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Henry the Fift”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene i]:
      To face the garment of rebellion / With some fine color that may please the eye / Of fickle changelings and poor discontents, / Which gape and rub the elbow at the news / Of hurly-burly innovation....