• inkling •
ing-kling • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The slightest hint, a glimmer, a vague intimation, the faintest idea. 2. (Dialectal) A hankering, a slight desire, an inclination.
Notes: No, this word does not mean "ink spot" or have anything to do with ink; it is related to nick (see Word History). It is an absolute lexical orphan except for the plural form: inklings.
In Play: The idea behind today's Good Word is faintness of the idea: "When he pointed what he thought was a pistol at the intruder, he didn't have an inkling that what he was holding was a cigarette lighter." However, in some dialects it may refer to a slight desire: "Freddie didn't have an inkling to go abroad and take the chance of a day without peanut butter."
Word History: The earliest record of the word was as a ningkiling "hint, intimation", which was an expansion of Middle English nikking "a hint, slight indication". A ningkiling was reanalyzed as an inkiling, just as a narange was reanalyzed as an orange. Nikking was the gerundive for the Middle English verb nikken "to mark for correction", derived from nik "a small notch, tally", which ended up in Modern English as nick. Nik seems semantically and phonologically related to notch, but there is no current explanation of the difference in vowels. (I have an inkling that we should now thank Rob Towart for his suggestion of today's whale of a Good Word.)