What is the ‘ling’ in darling? (And what is the ‘dar-’ for that matter?)
The -ling in darling is an old suffix that indicated ‘belonging to, concerned with, or having the quality of’ some matter. It could also carry a diminutive force. Documented in Old English, darling is literally ‘a dear thing’, with dar- from dear, or ‘precious, worthy, tenderly regarded’.
The lingo of ‘ling’
Old English had gadling (‘kinsman, relative, companion’); evenling (‘an equal’); and witherling (‘a foe’).
And we nearly lost, due to whatever accident of history, one of the most familiar instances of -ling: sibling. In Old English, a sibling was a relative, with sib an adjective and noun for ‘(one) related by blood or descent’. (That sib also shows up in gossip, from godsibb, ‘godparent’; in Middle English, this was used for ‘a close friend’, especially ‘a person with whom one gossips’, hence its evolution into ‘idle talk’ centuries later.)
The many siblings of ‘ling’
By far the largest class of – ling words are people. Middle English had heanling and hinderling (‘contemptible person’); comeling (‘newcomer’) and out-comeling (‘stranger’); afterling (‘descendant’); and wendling (‘wanderer’).
Useful or not, you have to admit: -ling is pretty darling little suffix in English. OK, maybe not Ryan Gosling level, but hey, let the etymologists dream.
– OxfordWords blog post
● Diminutive – is a word that has been modified to convey a slighter degree of its root meaning, to convey the smallness of the object or quality named
● Instance – an example or single occurrence of something
● Descent – the origin or background of a person in terms of family or nationality.
● Etymologists – a specialist in the history of a linguistic form (such as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another.