Entries linking to starveling
Old English steorfan "to die" (past tense stearf, past participle storfen), literally "become stiff," from Proto-Germanic *sterbanan "be stiff, starve" (source also of Old Frisian sterva, Old Saxon sterban, Dutch sterven, Old High German sterban "to die," Old Norse stjarfi "tetanus"), from extended form of PIE root *ster- (1) "stiff."
The conjugation became weak in English by 16c. The sense narrowed to "die of cold" (14c.); transitive meaning "to kill with hunger" is first recorded 1520s (earlier to starve of hunger, early 12c.). Intransitive sense of "to die of hunger" dates from 1570s. German cognate sterben retains the original sense of the word, but the English has come so far from its origins that starve to death (1910) is now common.
diminutive word-forming element, early 14c., from Old English -ling a nominal suffix (not originally diminutive), from Proto-Germanic *-linga-; attested in historical Germanic languages as a simple suffix, but probably representing a fusion of two suffixes: 1. that represented by English -el (1), as in thimble, handle; and 2. -ing, suffix indicating "person or thing of a specific kind or origin;" in masculine nouns also "son of" (as in farthing, atheling, Old English horing "adulterer, fornicator"), from PIE *-(i)ko- (see -ic).
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.
updated on November 25, 2013