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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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

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 The Wayward Children series occupies a liminal space in literary classification systems. Vox Staff, Vox, "The most thought-provoking books the Vox staff read in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 The Barataria Basin, a liminal zone of marsh and water in Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, is one of the country’s prime fishing and shrimping areas. Nate Berg, Curbed, "Can engineering save Louisiana’s coastline?," 7 Nov. 2018 Terrified and in agony over her closeted life, J.J. attempted suicide, and the entire game is a sort of near-death fever dream where J.J.’s identity swims between liminal spaces — closeted and out, alive and dead, whole and in literal pieces. Julie Muncy, The Verge, "This queer horror game forces you to literally tear yourself apart," 8 Nov. 2018 For sheer drama and direction, the double act of Telfar and Rodarte, and that liminal space between them, had no equal this season. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Our Very Favorite Moments From the Spring 2019 Collections," 10 Oct. 2018 While the central metaphor of trees standing in for people is a bit on the nose, Kristen Martino's set and Daniel Friedman's lighting design evoke a liminal space where the future and past as well as the living and the dead can mingle freely. Dmitry Samarov, Chicago Reader, "The family in Sagittarius Ponderosa can only truly see one another in dreams," 6 July 2018 The hurry-up-and-wait nature of the search left the climbers’ friends and family in an odd, liminal space. Matt Skenazy, Outside Online, "The Last Days of Marc-André Leclerc," 19 June 2018

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

28 Jun 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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