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The noun "limen" refers to the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced, and "liminal" is the adjective used to describe things associated with that point, or threshold, as it is also called. Likewise, the closely related word subliminal means "below a threshold;" it can describe something inadequate to produce a sensation or something operating below a threshold of consciousness. Because the sensory threshold is a transitional point where sensations are just beginning to be perceptible, "liminal" acquired two extended meanings. It can mean "barely perceptible" and is now often used to mean "transitional" or "intermediate," as in "the liminal zone between sleep and wakefulness."
Origin of liminal
Latin limin-, limen threshold
First Known Use: 1884
Medical Definition of liminal
: of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold : barely perceptible or capable of eliciting a response <liminal visual stimuli>
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Medical Dictionary: Definition of "liminal"
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