1797, in Scott's translation of Goethe, from German Erl-könig, fiend who haunts the depths of forests in German and Scandinavian poetic mythology, literally "alder-king;" according to OED, Herder's erroneous translation of Danish ellerkonge "king of the elves." Compare German Eller, Erle "alder" (see alder).
1. He was eking out an existence on a few francs a day.
2. She is eking out her income by working in the evenings.
3. They had to have some way of eking out a reasonable existence.
4. He had been eking out a wretched existence, story - telling, or selling tobacco.