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From Middle English hirling, hyrling, from Old English hȳrling (hireling, employee), from Proto-Germanic *hūrijōlingaz (hireling), from *hūrijō +‎ *-lingaz; synchronically hire +‎ -ling. Cognate with West Frisian hierling, Dutch huurling (hireling, mercenary), German Low German Hüürling, German Heuerling.



hireling (plural hirelings)

  1. (usually derogatory) An employee who is hired, often to perform unpleasant tasks with little independence.
    • 1611, King James Version, Job 7:1:
      Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
    • 1848: William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 19:
      When my poor James was in the smallpox, did I allow any hireling to nurse him?
  2. (usually derogatory) Someone who does a job purely for money, rather than out of interest in the work itself.
    • 1605: Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning
      ... it may be truly affirmed that no kind of men love business for itself but those that are learned; for other persons love it for profit, as a hireling that loves the work for the wages;
    • 1821, Lord Byron, Sardanapalus, Act II, sc. 1:
      These vain bickerings
      Are spawn'd in courts by base intrigues and baser
      Hirelings, who live by lies on good men's lives.
  3. A horse for hire.
    • 1934, Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust, Chapter 3, Section 5:
      In the afternoon they went to a neighbouring livery stables to look for hirellings.
  4. (obsolete) A prostitute.



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