noun (1)
lim·​bo | \ ˈlim-(ˌ)bō How to pronounce limbo (audio) \
plural limbos

Definition of limbo

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 often capitalized : an abode of souls that are according to Roman Catholic theology barred from heaven because of not having received Christian baptism
2a : a place or state of restraint or confinement trapping travelers in an airless limbo— Sam Boal
b : a place or state of neglect or oblivion proposals kept in limbo
c : an intermediate or transitional place or state the adolescent occupies a special human limboNew Republic
d : a state of uncertainty The graduate was in limbo for a while, trying to decide what to do next.


noun (2)
plural limbos

Definition of limbo (Entry 2 of 2)

: a dance or contest that involves bending over backwards and passing under a horizontal pole lowered slightly for each successive pass

First Known Use of limbo

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

circa 1950, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for limbo

Noun (1)

Middle English, from Medieval Latin, ablative of limbus limbo, from Latin, border

Noun (2)

English of Trinidad & Barbados; akin to Jamaican English limba to bend, from English limber entry 2

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The first known use of limbo was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Limbo.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Oct. 2021.

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