How would you react if you saw the word “sparkling” being used as a diminutive of “spark” in a poem?

Although poetry does allow for potentially unlimited flexibility, as a non-native speaker I wonder if it sounds awkward.

Ideally, I would be glad to see any examples of this.

Thank you

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    Hi Dwarf Vader, welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for additional information. It might help answerers to know some of the context for the word "spark" in your poem and why you need a diminutive term for it. Good luck and happy writing!
    – linksassin
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 3:43
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    Also, you're probably not aware but this question is eligible for our current tag challenge. There's no prizes other than bragging rights but it's great to see entries from new users.
    – linksassin
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 3:45
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    Sparks (literal meaning) are usually (always?) small, so in what way does a diminutive spark differ from a regular spark? Or are you using a figurative meaning for "spark" (Alice is a bright spark)? As @linksassin said, an example or two of your intended use would really help answerers!
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 3:23
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    Hey that's quite a cool coinage! and playful
    – smci
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 15:40

4 Answers 4


(Assuming I understood your question, and you mean 'sparkling' as in a baby spark)

If I were to come across this without any context, I would probably read it as a verb or adjective (sparkling water, sparkling like a firework, etc).

However, using 'ling' as a diminutive isn't so rare that it can't be recognized - think fingerling potatoes, 'younglings' in Star Wars. I think it would be understood as a small spark if you provided the appropriate context.

"The sparkling flew into the air"

I would probably assume you missed the noun that 'sparkling' describes.

"Although still young, the sparkling left the nest to fly into the air with their elder brothers and sisters"

It's clear that 'sparkling' is a noun here.

(sorry about the weird examples)

You could also try spark-ling, or play with the format some other way, and see if that makes a difference.

  • Thank you, your examples really help. In my case, the poem is meant to be read out loud, so the hyphen wouldn't be of much help. I will try to change it to avoid unnecessary confusion, thankfully in my case it won't change the meaning much. Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 6:57
  • You're welcome! If you're in control of the way it's read/performed, you could always tell the reader to pause there. Also, hyphenated words are sometimes read with a pause.
    – tryin
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 8:39
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    Word choice is important in poetry, so if I was really attached to 'sparkling' I'd keep it and risk the misunderstanding, but it's obviously up to you.
    – tryin
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 8:40

"-ling" is a valid diminuitive, but in this case your coinage would be directly competing with a common English word, the adjective "sparkling." Given that, I'd argue against use of this unless there are strong reasons for it. There are other English diminuitives, what about "sparklet" instead?

In general, the rule is avoid confusion where possible. Sometimes there are valid reasons to make the reader work harder, but you should never add confusion for no reason.


Not only is there the adjective "sparkling" with which your neologism has to compete, as Chris Sunami put it, but the "-ling" ending is also used to call people/animals/creatures that have a certain diminutive attribute.

I'm taking about "youngling", "halfling", "fledgling", and so on. These words describe a living being with the attribute of being young, half the size of a normal person, and of having obtained feathers, respectively.

In this case the word is being transformed into a name for a creature. So a "sparkling" would be a personified young spark.

Out of the fire that was its birthplace, a young sparkling jumped. "It's better to burn out than to fade away", it sang, as it landed on the dry straw.

In the case that this kind of personification is what you're going for, it's perfect. If you just want to say "a small spark", I think it's the wrong choice, because it will make people think of the adjective or it will make them think you're personifying the spark.


Once I figured it out, I might think it was cute. However, I would figure it out much faster if you used a hyphen ("spark-ling") to distinguish it from the word "sparkling" (something that sparkles). And/or, if the first time you use it, the context makes it clear what you mean.

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