instrumental word-forming element, expressing "appliance, tool," from Old English -ol, -ul, -el, representing PIE *-lo- (see -ule). In modern English usually -le except after -n-. As in treadle, ladle, thimble, handle, spindle, girdle; also compare dialectal thrashle "flail, implement for thrashing," from Old English ðerscel, Middle English scrapel "instrument for scraping" (mid-14c.), etc.
Both these suffixes had occasional diminutive force, but this was only slightly evident in Old English -ling and its equivalents in Germanic languages except Norse, where it commonly was used as a diminutive suffix, especially in words designating the young of animals (such as gæslingr "gosling"). Thus it is possible that the diminutive use that developed in Middle English is from Old Norse.