appended to ns., adjs., vb.-stems, and (rarely) advs., to form ns., is a Com. Teut. formative (OE., OS., OHG. -ling, ON. -ling-r, Goth. -ligg-s in gadiliggs). It doubtless arose from the addition of the suffix ING3 to noun-stems formed with the suffix -ilo- ( -LE 1), but in all the historical Teut. langs. it has the character of a simple suffix. In OE., -ling added to ns. forms ns. with the general sense ‘a person or thing belonging to or concerned with (what is denoted by the primary n.), as hýrling hirelin g, ierðling ploughman (f. ier ploughing), ræpling prisoner (f. ráp rope). The derivatives from adjs. have the sense ‘a person or thing that has the quality denoted by the adj.&# 146;, e.g. déorling darling, efenling an equal, feorðling quarter, farthing, esibling, sibling kinsman; similarly from an adv., underling subord inate. One or two names of birds have this suffix in OE., as swertling ? some black bird (? f. sweart black), stærling starling; here it may possibly have a diminutive force (see 2 below).

In ME. and mod.E. the suffix continued to be freely employed with the same function as in OE.; examples are atterling, deathling, fatling, firstling, grayling, nestling, nursling, sapling, suckling. The personal designations in -ling are now always used in a contemptuous or unfavourable sense (though this implication was not fully established before the 17th c.), as courtling, earthling, groundling, popeling (= papist), vainling, worldling. On the analogy of words like nursling, where the grammatical character of the initial element is ambiguous, a few ns. in -ling have been formed on vb.-stems (taken in passive sense), being personal designations of contemptuous import, such as shaveling, starveling; of similar origin is stripling, though it has lost its primary derisive sense.
The suffix is no longer productive in the uses above explained.

2 In ON. the suffix had a diminutive force, of which there are only slight traces in the other Teut. langs. (cf. OE. stærling mentioned above, and G. sperling sparrow); chiefly in words denoting the young of animals, as gÿðlin-gr gosling, ketling-r kitten, kiðlin-gr young kid, 'kidling', butalso in a few other words, as bókling-r booklet, vetling-r glove, yrmling-r little worm. In Eng. the earliest certain instance of this use appears to be codling, recorded c1314 (kitling, which appears a1300, being of dubious formation), in the 15th c. we find gosling (of which the earliest quoted form, gesling, points to adoption from ON.), and duckling. In the 16thc. and subsequently the suffix has been employed in many new diminutive formations, chiefly contemptuous appellations of persons, as godling, lordling, kingling, princeling; in this use it is still a living formative.
  In the formation of diminutives expressing merely smallness of size, -ling has never been extensively used; a few writers of the 19th c. have so employed it in nonce-wds. (1837) I. 147 Gentry dipped in Styx all over, whom no paper javelin-lings can touch. 1815 J. GILCHRIST Labyrinth Demolished 8 Philosophling. Ibid. 22 Thinkling. Ibid. 24 Metaphysicling. 1885 HOWELLS in Century Mag. XXX. 541 ‘A pity for you!’ cried the hunchbackling.