from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- suffix One connected with: worldling.
- suffix One having a specified quality: underling.
- suffix One that is young, small, or inferior: duckling.
- suffix In a specified direction, manner, or condition: darkling.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- suffix A diminutive modifier of nouns having either the physical sense of "a younger, smaller or inferior version of what is denoted by the original noun", or the derived sense indicating possession of or connection with a quality, which may having the sense of "a follower or resident of what is denoted by the stem form".
- suffix In the manner or direction indicated by the main stem (object.)
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- suffix A noun suffix, commonly having a diminutive or a depreciatory force; as in duckling, gosling, hireling, fosterling, firstling, underling.
- An adverbial suffix.
Middle English, from Old English.(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English -ling, from Old English -ling, from Proto-Germanic *-lingaz, a nominal suffix, probably composed of Proto-Germanic *-ilaz (agent/instrumental suffix) + Proto-Germanic *-ingaz (patronymic suffix). Akin to Old High German -ling, Old Norse -lingr, Gothic -𐌻𐌹𐌲𐌲𐍃 (-liggs) (in 𐌲𐌰𐌳𐌹𐌻𐌹𐌲𐌲𐍃 (gadiliggs)). More at -le, -ing. (Wiktionary)