un·der·ling (ŭn’dər-lĭng)
n. One of lesser rank or authority than another; a subordinate.
Word History: The suffix -ling, inherited from Common Germanic, already had several uses in Old English, all of which produced new nouns. It could, for example, be added to a noun to make a second noun that referred to something connected with or similar to the first noun; thus, adding this suffix to the Old English word yrth, "plowland," produced the Old English word yrthling, "plowman." The suffix could also be added to an adjective to make a noun that referred to something having the quality denoted by the adjective: from Old English dēore, "dear, beloved," was derived dēorling (Modern English darling). Adding -ling to an adverb produced a noun referring to something having the position or condition denoted by the adverb: from Old English under came underling. This last use of -ling is actually taken over from Old Norse. In Old Norse -ling was used to form diminutives; thus, our word gosling was a borrowing in Middle English of an Old Norse word, gæslingr, "gosling, a little goose."

Word Histories. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Underling — Un der*ling, n. [Under + ling.] 1. An inferior person or agent; a subordinate; a low ranking employee. Milton. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence, A mean, sorry fellow. Milton. [1913 Webster] The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • underling — index assistant, coadjutant Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • underling — (n.) late 12c., from UNDER (Cf. under) + dim. suffix LING (Cf. ling) …   Etymology dictionary

  • underling — n *inferior, subordinate Antonyms: leader, master …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • underling — [n] subordinate aide, assistant, attendant, deputy, flunky*, gofer*, helper, inferior, lackey*, minion, peon, scrub*, second, second fiddle*, second stringer*, serf, servant, slave; concepts 348,423 …   New thesaurus

  • underling — ► NOUN chiefly derogatory ▪ a subordinate …   English terms dictionary

  • underling — [un′dər liŋ] n. [ME < OE: see UNDER & LING1] a person in a subordinate position; inferior: usually contemptuous or disparaging …   English World dictionary

  • underling — [[t]ʌ̱ndə(r)lɪŋ[/t]] underlings N COUNT (disapproval) You refer to someone as an underling when they are inferior in rank or status to someone else and take orders from them. You use this word to show that you do not respect someone. Every… …   English dictionary

  • underling — UK [ˈʌndə(r)lɪŋ] / US [ˈʌndərlɪŋ] noun [countable] Word forms underling : singular underling plural underlings an insulting word for someone who is less important or has lower status in an organization than someone else …   English dictionary

  • underling — m ( es/ as) underling, inferior …   Old to modern English dictionary

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