lim·​i·​nal | \ ˈli-mə-nᵊl How to pronounce liminal (audio) \

Definition of liminal

1 : of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold : barely perceptible or capable of eliciting a response liminal visual stimuli
2 : of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : in-between, transitional … in the liminal state between life and death.— Deborah Jowitt

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Other Words from liminal

liminality \ ˌli-​mə-​ˈna-​lə-​tē How to pronounce liminality (audio) \ noun, plural liminalities
The market, standing between the sacred and secular, the mundane and exotic, and the local and global, has always been a place of liminality — Jon Goss

Get in Between Liminal

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."

Examples of liminal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The liminal seasons in between the extremes of summer’s passion and winter’s contemplation. Junauda Petrus-nasah, Star Tribune, "Author Junauda Petrus-Nasah reflects on fall and the wild magic of leaves," 16 Sep. 2020 Black athletes occupy a liminal zone uniquely conducive to triangulating between the country’s ruling class and those in its yoke. G'ra Asim, The New Republic, "The NBA Strike and the Limits of the Left’s Class-Centric Politics," 29 Aug. 2020 Sulej knows professional archaeologists would never let the shoes stay in the woods in some semiofficial liminal state. Amos Barshad, Longreads, "Remembering the Things That Remain," 10 Aug. 2020 In the universe of human-animal relations, rabbits occupy a liminal space. Susan Orlean, The New Yorker, "The Rabbit Outbreak," 29 June 2020 One interstitial word stresses the possibility of transformation rather than stasis: liminal. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, "We’re in a ‘liminal’ moment, rather than ‘in limbo’," 11 June 2020 Sullivan’s memoir about his brother’s trip back from the dead has all kinds of quasi-metaphysical things happening, these liminal moments that offer a sort of grace, a sense of wonder at the miracle of a human life. Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker, "Matthew Klam on the Madness of Becoming a Parent," 9 Mar. 2020 In those liminal moments, alternately lucid and surreal, Leila recalls her life, from her birth all the way to the tragic step that left her body in a dumpster. Ron Charles Critic, Washington Post, "Elif Shafak continues to resist Turkey’s repressive government with brilliant fiction," 25 Sep. 2019 The liminal spaces that represent transitions between one point in time and the next are needed even more today, during turmoil and stay-at-home orders caused by the coronavirus, say proponents. oregonlive, "Mow a design in your lawn for World Labyrinth Day, stay calm during the coronavirus pandemic," 28 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'liminal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of liminal

1875, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for liminal

Latin limin-, limen threshold

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Time Traveler for liminal

Time Traveler

The first known use of liminal was in 1875

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Last Updated

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Liminal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for liminal


lim·​i·​nal | \ ˈlim-ən-ᵊl How to pronounce liminal (audio) \

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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