From ground +‎ -ling. Compare Old English grundling (a groundling fish, grundel).


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groundling (plural groundlings)

  1. Any of various plants or animals living on or near the ground, as a benthic fish or bottom feeder, especially:
    • 1922, Ivan Turgenev, A House of Gentlefolk, translated by Constance Garnett, London: Heinemann, Chapter XXVI, p. 155, [1]:
      In the pond behind the garden there were plenty of carp and groundlings.
    • 1929, Robinson Jeffers, "The Loving Shepherdess" in The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, New York: Random House, 1937, p. 219, [2]:
      [] the ewe called Tiny
      Crossed over and touched her, the others turned anxious looks
      From sniffing the autumn-pinched leaves of the groundling blackberries.
    • 2012, David Williams, Planning on Murder, →ISBN:
      Delgard got out the handkerchief again and blew his nose loud enough to alert any bird or groundling within several hundred yards.
    1. The spined loach (Cobitis taenia), weather loach ( Misgurnus fossilis), or other member of the loaches.
      • 1681, Nehemiah Grew, Musaeum Regalis Societatis. Or a Catalogue and Description of the Natural and Artificial Rarities Belonging to the Royal Society and preserved at Gresham Colledge:
        The BEARDED-LOACH or GROUNDLING. Gobites Barbatula. It is a small fish about five inches long, bearded with six small Threads, three on each side
      • 1825, The Complete Angler:
        When you angle for a trout, you are to do it as deep, that is, as near to the bottom as you can, provided your bait do not drag, although a trout will sometimes take it in that posture: if for a grayling, you are then to fish further from the buttom, it being a fish that usually swims nearer to the middle of the water, and lies always loose; or, however, is more apt to raise than trout, and more inclined to raise than to descend, even to a groundling.
      • 1958, Soviet Physics, Doklady, page 464:
        Fertilized groundling (Misgurnus fossilis) and sturgeon (Acipenser Stellatus) eggs were irradiated (10,000 r) at stages from fertilization to middle gastrulation.
      • 1999, Brian K. Hall, The Neural Crest in Development and Evolution, →ISBN, page 82:
        Lopashov (1944) extirpated and grafted neural tubes from several species of teleosts—the groundling, Misgurnus fossilis, the loach, Nemacheilus barhatulus, and the perch, Perca fluviatilis — to determine whether pigment cells were of neural crest origin.
    2. The ringed plover, Charadrius hiaticula.
  2. An audience member in the cheap section (usually standing; originally in Elizabethan theater).
    • c. 1599–1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene ii]:
      O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise.
    • 1609, Thomas Dekker, The Guls Horn-Booke, London: J.M. Dent, 1936, Chapter VI, p. 47, [3]:
      when your Groundling, and gallery-Commoner buyes his sport by the penny, and, like a Hagler, is glad to utter it againe by retailing.
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, Ulysses, London: The Egoist Press, published October 1922, OCLC 2297483:
      The flag is up on the playhouse by the bankside. The bear Sackerson growls in the pit near it, Paris garden. Canvasclimbers who sailed with Drake chew their sausages among the groundlings.
    • 1888–1891, Herman Melville, “[Billy Budd, Foretopman.] Chapter 11.”, in Billy Budd and Other Stories, London: John Lehmann, published 1951, OCLC 639975898:
      Passion, and passion in its profoundest, is not a thing demanding a palatial stage whereon to play its part. Down among the groundlings, among the beggars and rakers of the garbage, profound passion is enacted.
    • 1943, Sinclair Lewis, Gideon Planish, London: Jonathan Cape, Chapter VIII, p. 71:
      In fact, most of the mob did not know there was such a thing as a director, and it was the actors and the student orchestra whom the groundlings applauded.
    • 2010, (William Shakespeare), Jonathan Bate & Eric Rasmussen, Twelfth Night, →ISBN, page 159:
      ...the penny-paying groundlings stand in the yard hurling abuse or encouragement and hazelnuts or orange peel at the actors, while the sophisticates in the covered galleries appreciate Shakespeare's soaring poetry.
  3. (by extension) A person of uncultivated or uncultured taste.
    • 1893, The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art:
      This is what the magnanimous National Liberal Federation have said in effect to the House of Lords, and what, it should seem, they innocently regard as likely to impress the Gladstonian groundling.
    • 1896, Elbert Hubbard, This is the Story of The Legacy - Volume 1, page 3:
      If you happen to be a genius it will not necessarily be fatal to your inspiration if you succeed in winning the love of a groundling. Female groundlings often make excellent housekeepers; male groundlings good providers. But if your groundling is not of the pure type and should greatly admire your intellectual output, you will probably adapt your future production to the groundling understanding, and at that moment you begin to die at the top.
    • 1903, Henry Lyman Morehouse, William W. Bliss, & Thomas Jefferson Morgan, The Baptist Home Mission Monthly - Volumes 25-26, page 183:
      Millions of these have no conception of the meaning and obligation of popular government, and so they are the ready prey of demagogues and groundlings.
    • 1966, Invitation to Learning: English & American Novels, page 130:
      It's like saying that Dickens put in all this crude, comic stuff to please the groundlings. I don't think he did.
    • 2004 July 16, “More money, more problems”, in The Economist:
      They serve to allow the thousands of groundlings who attend alongside the celebrities to talk, to swap ideas and generally to stick their fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
    • 2008, Robert Ignatius Letellier, Giacomo Meyerbeer: A Reader, →ISBN, page 349:
      At the same time, as we gather from his Journal des Débats notice of Le Prophète, Berlioz was well aware of Meyerbeer's demagogic streak, his readiness to bemuse the groundling with loud commonplaces.
    • 2012, Not Wisely But Too Well, →ISBN, page 11:
      Still, the folio Ben looks to publish will be well beyond the purse of most scholars, let alone a groundling.
    • 2013, Norman Rush, Subtle Bodies, →ISBN:
      The point, to her, seemed to be to show that whatever was going on around him was subordinate to the great private productive secret-not-necessarily-related-to-anything-his-groundling-friends-were-talking-about trains of thought that Douglas was having.
  4. One who is confined to the ground, especially:
    • 1837, Capel Lofft, Self-formation:
      It is not the good workman that is wont to quarrel with his tools ; adminicular aids and clinging propensities are fit only for the groundling, the child who is unable to walk upright and must be fain to crawl and to creep on as he best may.
    • 2006, Wilbur Gleason Zeigler, The Story of the Great Disaster: San Francisco's 1906 Earthquake and Fire, →ISBN:
      On Tuesday, April 17th, 1906, a business man of San Francisco ascended for the first time in five years to one of the upper stores of the highest sky-scraper in the Newpaper Angle. He was a groundling who had kept his ears as well as his feet to the earth.
    1. (military, slang) A soldier who fights on the ground or serves as ground crew, as opposed to a seaman, pilot, etc.
      • 1937, Field Artillery Association (U.S.), The Field Artillery Journal - Volume 27, page 342:
        The poor plodding groundling, helpless and impotent, is swooped upon at will, day and night, completely wiped out at the whim of the low- flying plane, which soars off leaving complete and utter destruction behind it!
      • 2010, Erin Bried, How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew, →ISBN:
        He then enlisted in the air force and served as a groundling in North Africa, Sicily, and England.
      • 2012, Pat Cunningham, The Fear in the Sky: Vivid Memories of Bomber Aircrew in World War Two, →ISBN:
        Present at the Battle of Jutland, he had been recalled for the duration of this war and, being in the area, he had come to see how his little lad was faring in the sky. I was given permission to fall out and join him, gladly setting aside my groundling's bayonet.
    2. (fantasy) A member of a race that lives primarily underground, such as a dwarf.
      • 2008, John Lambshead, Lucy's Blade, →ISBN, page 184:
        Simon noticed a groundling look intently at Walsingham's purse and nudge his mate.
      • 2015, Martha Wells, Stories of the Raksura: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below, →ISBN:
        One, a short groundling with dark leathery skin and long white hair, said, "It's not your house, Ventl. You, stranger, did you come here to trade?"
      • 2016, Markus Heitz, Dark Paths: The Legends of the Alfar, →ISBN:
        It was obvious that the brown-haired groundling had been involved in some heavy hand-to-hand combat recently.
  5. (Abrahamic religions) Adam, before eating the apple of knowledge of good and evil (emphasizing his creation from the ground).
    • 1993, Athalya Brenner-Idan, Feminist Companion to Genesis, →ISBN, page 47:
      It is not good for the groundling to be alone I will make for it a help as its counterpart (2.18).
    • 2010, Margaret Hebblethwaite, Opening the Scriptures: Faith Throughout the Year, →ISBN, page 16:
      The two of them were naked, the groundling and his woman, they were not ashamed.
    • 2014, Megan McKenna, Leave Her Alone, →ISBN:
      It isn't until three chapters later that this groundling receives a name—Adam; at that point, the groundling is no longer referred to as “it” in the text, but becomes “him.”

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