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 liminal (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 As with the recent pandemic-era pop-ups and other liminal projects, this one began as a way to reaffirm a sense of purpose in the midst of tragedy. Bill Addison, Los Angeles Times, 9 Sep. 2021 The White Lotus is circular in its plotting, returning in its finale to the scene with which the show began: Shane seated in the liminal space of an airport waiting area, being forced into conversation with a middle-aged couple. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, 16 Aug. 2021 This is why hundreds of thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals holders have spent a near-decade in a liminal state of legality, neither fully undocumented nor possessing any formal status. Felipe De La Hoz, The New Republic, 29 June 2021 In the betwixt and between moments—these liminal moments—when the old rules don’t count anymore, and the communities the people belong to break down. Arielle Pardes, Wired, 1 Mar. 2021 In the vast but liminal space of the ocean, cargo vessels — some of the largest machines on the planet — have generally operated in obscurity. New York Times, 24 June 2021 Pappenheimer crystallizes those liminal moments, and it’s captivating, soothing, and discomforting all at once., 21 Apr. 2021 Earth's atmosphere has become a liminal zone that marks a zombie spacecraft's transition to true death. Alice Gorman, CNN, 8 May 2021 The film trembles right on the edge of allegory, but Undine never confirms her own liminal nature. Alison Willmore, Vulture, 4 June 2021

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

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The first known use of liminal was in 1875

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Liminal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

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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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