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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English ningkiling, nyngkiling (hint, slight indication; mention, whisper),[1] and then either:

Sense 3 (“desire, inclination”) may have been influenced by incline (to tend to believe or do something) or French enclin (inclined, prone).[7]


inkling (plural inklings)

  1. Usually preceded by forms of to give: a slight hint, implication, or suggestion given.
    Synonym: intimation
    • 1856, W. S. Balch, “Guiuk-Soui”, in C[aroline] M[ehitable Fisher] Sawyer, editor, The Rose of Sharon: A Religious Souvenir, Boston, Mass.: Abel Tompkins, and Sanborn, Carter & Bazin, →OCLC, page 192:
      [T]he present recalled the past, robed in the memories of its thousand dark and damning deeds of ignorance and superstition, and gave inklings of a brighter and better future; [...]
    • 1893, Albert Ross, “‘She Will Probably Have Children.’”, in An Original Sinner (The Albatross Novels), New York, N.Y.: G. W. Dillingham Co., →OCLC, page 195:
      You ought to know something of French habits, at your age. You must have read books that give an inkling of it.
    • 1961, Bertram D[avid] Wolfe, “Introduction”, in Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution; and Leninism or Marxism? (Ann Arbor Paperbacks for the Study of Communism and Marxism; AA57), Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, published 2005 (22nd printing), →ISBN, page 3:
      A passage from one of her [Rosa Luxemberg's] letters written from prison to a young friend, Dr. Hans Diefenbacker, in the spring of 1917 will suffice to give an inkling of this passion: [...]
    • 2015, Michael E[dward] O’Hanlon, “Conflicts Real, Latent, and Imaginable”, in The Future of Land Warfare, Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, →ISBN, page 59:
      Delhi's reaction was remarkably restrained in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. But as a result of the tragedy, the Indian military gave inklings of formulating a "Cold Start" doctrine, along with associated changes to military organization and weaponry and posture, that would allow it to carry out a quick, punitive response, on up to eight axes, to any similar future Pakistani transgression.
  2. Often preceded by forms of to get or to have: an imprecise idea or slight knowledge of something; a suspicion.
  3. (Britain, dialectal) A desire, an inclination.
    • 1870 September 17, “The ‘United Brethren in Christ’”, in W[illia]m J. Allinson, editor, Friends’ Review. A Religious, Literary, and Miscellaneous Journal, volume XXIV, number 4, Philadelphia, Pa.: Published at 109 North Tenth Street; Merrihew & Son, printers, [], →OCLC, page 61:
      I requested brother Weder to come up into the stand and commence the preaching. But, inasmuch as he had his own notion about such things, having an inkling towards Quakerism within him,—that is, not to speak until he felt moved to do so, and this inspiration was wanting,—he refused to preach, and remained on his seat in the congregation.
    • 1996, Michael Cavanaugh, Biotheology: A New Synthesis of Science and Religion, Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, →ISBN, page 105:
      A strong culture maintains the stability of its concepts or doctrines in various ways. One way is to convince its members that their inklings towards change are pathological. But actually the range of health is very broad, and the flexibility of the human mind is great. It is not pathological for belief-systems to change, even continuously, provided we keep them stable enough to allow adequate functioning.
    • 2000, Jacqueline S. Ismael, Shereen T. Ismael, “Gender and State in Iraq”, in Suad Joseph, editor, Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East), Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, →ISBN, page 195:
      In the Baathist government in Iraq generally, and Saddam Hussein's regime in particular, the nation-state's inkling towards fascist formation became manifest, undaunted by the necessities of political compromise or niceties of liberal temperance.

Etymology 2[edit]

From inkle +‎ -ing.



  1. present participle and gerund of inkle


  1. ^ ningkiling, ger.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ nikking, ger.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ nikken, v.(2)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ -ing(e, suf.(1)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ inklen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  6. ^ inca, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Compare “inkling, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1900; “inkling, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.