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

And the restaurant seems to inhabit a liminal zone between full service and casual, clearly refined in the past two years to serve both new and longtime neighbors. Jen Thomas,, "Bay Briefing: What we know about the Gilroy shooting so far," 29 July 2019 Robert Macfarlane’s writings exist in a liminal, twilit place where language and landscape dissolve into one another. Tobias Carroll, Longreads, "‘The Underland Is a Deeply Human Realm’: Getting Down with Robert Macfarlane," 20 June 2019 There’s so much pressure on San Francisco now, the urgency of money and power and change, that the liminal realms, the spaces in between, seem to be squeezed out. Owen Thomas,, "Tech and the Bay Area need more spaces in between," 31 July 2019 Grosse uses industrial spray paint on thin fabric, which is hung, not stretched, giving the painting a kind of liminal immateriality. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, "A Clear Look at Jackson Pollock’s Breakthrough Painting, “Mural”," 29 July 2019 These dormant microbes with very reduced metabolic activity exist in a liminal space between life and death. Carrie Arnold, WIRED, "A Blazing Hot Coal Seam Shows How Microbes Can Spring to Life," 21 Apr. 2019 The Yale team’s achievement headlined a spate of recent work that probes the liminal space between cellular life and death. Quanta Magazine, "Cellular Life, Death and Everything in Between," 8 July 2019 James Baldwin’s Little Man, Little Man defies conventional expectations for both children’s and adult’s literature, functioning, ultimately, as a liminal work that straddles the borders of both genres. The New York Review of Books, "Gabrielle Bellot," 3 Jan. 2019 These queens have all continued the legacy of drag performance at the liminal margins of the city, where new arrivals take up the mantle of the craft. Devin Antheus, Vogue, "Legends of San Francisco," 30 Apr. 2019

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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Statistics for liminal

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for liminal

The first known use of liminal was in 1875

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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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What made you want to look up liminal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

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