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.

Examples of liminal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For Iowa, the team and the state, Clark’s maybe-final season exists in a kind of liminal space. Matt Flegenheimer, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2024 Another theme buried within Jonah is how our repressed memories are most likely to come up in generic liminal spaces. Vulture, 2 Feb. 2024 Turns out our brains can stay active for a period of time during that liminal state between life and death. Elizabeth Robinson, NBC News, 15 Sep. 2023 Lately, some of our surrogate rich moms have been living in the liminal zone between leisure and businesswear. Hannah Jackson, Vogue, 21 Dec. 2023 For months my editor and I were locked alone in a room trying to craft the unusual tone, the liminal space in which the film exists. Andrew Haigh, Los Angeles Times, 1 Jan. 2024 The auditory illusion fits the mood of the piece: liminal, transitory, extremely trippy. Pitchfork, 4 Dec. 2023 Herzberg’s death instantly turned what had been a philosophical conundrum into a glaringly real, legal one: Who gets blamed for a road fatality in the awkward, liminal era of self-driving cars, when humans are essentially babysitters of imperfect, still-learning AI systems? WIRED, 28 July 2023 And then—in that liminal space between serendipity and intentional experimentation—Balmain’s team stumbled on a peculiar result. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The New Yorker, 11 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'liminal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 22 Feb. 2024.

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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