liminal

adjective

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

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Get in Between Liminal

When liminal first appeared in written use, it referred to something (such as a physical stimulus) which was just barely perceptible, or just barely capable of eliciting a response. This meaning is still in use today in constructions like "liminal auditory stimuli." The word comes from the noun limen, which refers to the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. In its most common extended meaning now, it describes a state, place, or condition of transition, as in “the liminal zone between sleep and wakefulness.” 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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Much like the inhabitants living in a restless limbo, that universe occupies a strange, liminal space somewhere between waking and dreams. Christopher Vourlias, Variety, 7 Nov. 2022 Another common liminal space Culp cites is a high school after classes end for the day. Michael Dobuski, ABC News, 5 Nov. 2022 Pregnancy is the most liminal of states, a nine-month-long transition into existence. Monica Hesse, Washington Post, 3 Oct. 2022 Even in those liminal zones, humans still owe a healthy measure of deference to wildlife. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 17 Aug. 2022 The book highlights how even though Asian-Americans have a centuries-long history in the West, racist western narratives have depicted them as contradictory to the myth of the American West and liminal to its story. Nylah Burton, Outside Online, 9 Aug. 2022 Strictly speaking, a liminal space is a place of transition. Jake Pitre, The Atlantic, 1 Nov. 2022 Take your 'fit pics in liminal spaces, people! Jenner, who's known for her cosmetics business, went all in on her glam, opting for a soft, natural makeup and vampy fall nails. Ana Escalante, Glamour, 20 Oct. 2022 The Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton is a master of liminal spaces. Sam Thielman, The New Yorker, 23 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Latin limin-, limen threshold

First Known Use

1875, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of liminal was in 1875

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Dictionary Entries Near liminal

Cite this Entry

“Liminal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal. Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

Medical Definition

liminal

adjective
lim·​i·​nal ˈlim-ən-ᵊl How to pronounce liminal (audio)
: of, relating to, or situated at a sensory threshold : barely perceptible or capable of eliciting a response
liminal visual stimuli

More from Merriam-Webster on liminal

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