\ ˈlim How to pronounce limn (audio) \
limned; limning\ ˈli-​miŋ How to pronounce limn (audio) , ˈlim-​niŋ \

Definition of limn

transitive verb

1 : to draw or paint on a surface The artist limned a portrait.
2 : to outline in clear sharp detail : delineate he was limned by a streetlight— Stephen Coonts
3 : describe the novel limns the frontier life of the settlers

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Other Words from limn

limner \ ˈli-​mər How to pronounce limn (audio) , ˈlim-​nər How to pronounce limn (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Allow us to shed some light on the history of "limn," a word with lustrous origins. "Limn" traces to the Middle French verb enluminer and ultimately to the Latin illuminare, which means "to illuminate." Its use as an English verb dates from the days of Middle English; at first, "limn" referred to the action of illuminating (that is, decorating) medieval manuscripts with gold, silver, or brilliant colors. William Shakespeare extended the term to painting in his poem Venus and Adonis: "Look when a painter would surpass the life / In limning out a well-proportioned steed . . . ."

Examples of limn in a Sentence

he limned the scene in the courtroom so perfectly I could practically see it
Recent Examples on the Web The adjacent desperations of the Emory family are meant to limn the material and psychological effects of living under the threat of anti-Blackness in America. Angelica Jade Bastién, Vulture, "Them Is Pure Degradation Porn," 14 Apr. 2021 Nonetheless, Democrats want to be perceived as favoring virtually universal suffrage, and to limn their conservative and Republican opposition as favoring vote suppression. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "No, Every Vote Does Not Count," 3 Nov. 2020 Her poems, which have appeared in The New Yorker for over thirty years, limn the legacies of history, in her home country and beyond, and reckon especially with the repression of women’s accomplishments, realities, and inner lives. Hannah Aizenman, The New Yorker, "Eavan Boland in The New Yorker," 29 Apr. 2020 Also stuffed not inelegantly between the microcosmic doings are several larger incidents that limn the bloody and brutal history of the two centuries, including South American totalitarianism, European pogroms and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Washington Post, "Bibliophiles love the mystery of a missing manuscript. ‘The Lost Book of Adana Moreau’ is just what they’re looking for.," 2 Feb. 2020 Every eloquent expanse of empty wall is limned by a trill of thin stripes defining doorjambs, drawn curtains and window frames. Washington Post, "This Edward Hopper exhibition on hotels is worth an extended stay," 28 Nov. 2019 Poupaud’s extraordinary performance here limns the ambiguity of men who are not gay with those who felt gay after their abuse. Armond White, National Review, "In By the Grace of God, Insight Surpasses PC Righteousness," 18 Oct. 2019 The politics of illness—how the profit motive determines life and damage and death; how victim blaming is enshrined; how social norms can disable and kill—have rarely been limned with such clarity and grace. Lidija Haas, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 28 Oct. 2019 Yet each bears Becker’s stamp, with impeccably precise narratives, mise-en-scènes of documentary accuracy, and characters both well-limned and inordinately sympathetic. David Mermelstein, WSJ, "The Struggles of Jacques Becker," 1 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'limn.' 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 limn

1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for limn

Middle English limnen to illuminate (a manuscript), probably back-formation from lymnour illuminator, alteration of lumenur, from Anglo-French aluminer, enluminer to illuminate, ultimately from Latin illuminare

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Last Updated

23 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Limn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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