One of lesser rank or authority than another; a subordinate.
Word History: Learning the meanings of affixes is a common approach to building vocabulary, but studying a group of words that share an affix can be fascinating in its own right. 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, “ploughland,” 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, gǽslingr, “gosling, a little goose.”