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


groundling (plural groundlings)

  1. Any of various plants or animals living on or near the ground, as a benthic fish or bottom feeder, especially
    1. The spined loach, Cobitis taenia, or other loaches.
    2. The ringed plover, Charadrius hiaticula.
    • 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.
  2. an audience member in the cheap section (usually standing; originally in Elizabethan theater)
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act III,
      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 dumbshows 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, James Joyce, Ulysses, Penguin, 1992, p. 240,
      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.
    • 1924, Herman Melville, Billy Budd, London: Constable & Co., Chapter 11, [4]
      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.
  3. by extension, an individual of uncultivated or uncultured taste (Can we verify(+) this sense?)

See alsoEdit