"Slink," "Slunk," "Slinked"

Only one of these is the best choice for the past tense of "slink." Do you know which it is?

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

slink slunk slinked

Joshua Essoe wrote, “I've been looking, but I cannot find a definitive answer to when one would use "slunk," and when one would use "slinked." I'm of half a mind to declare "slinked" a non-word. What's the difference? When should I use one over the other?”

I can see why Joshua is confused. Different online dictionaries provide different advice about the past tense of “slink”:

I often turn to Garner’s Modern American Usage when I encounter such problems, and Garner’s recommends "slunk," calling "slinked" and "slank" nonstandard. Another one of my favorite books, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, doesn’t cover the topic.

Based on all these sources, I recommend "slunk" as the safest choice.

Origin of "Slink"

As an aside, I was delighted to discover that the origin of "slink" is the Low German word "slinken." It makes me think of the nursery rhyme “Winkin, Blinkin’, and Nod.”

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.