\ ˈlim How to pronounce limn (audio) \
limned; limning\ ˈli-​miŋ How to pronounce limning (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 limner (audio) , ˈlim-​nər How to pronounce limner (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 candidate is seen from the back, a spotlight limning his head and the fingers on his right hand. WSJ, "‘In Mid-Sentence’ Review: An Ad Hoc Genre," 18 June 2019 With her characteristic storytelling brio, Oates limns in her first 125 pages a fraught family that mirrors a fraught community. Wendy Smith,, "Not perhaps the best by a master of the troubling and thoughtful but still pretty good," 13 June 2019 Over this go juicy tomatoes and cucumber limned with vinegar and olive oil, and finally a scattering of cilantro, dill and raw jalapeños — just a few, but vital. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, "At Cafe Dushanbe, a Chef Stays True to His Tajik Roots," 21 June 2018 In short, crisply readable chapters, Greenblatt limns a bagful of Shakespeare’s tyrants. Alex Beam,, "Stephen Greenblatt’s ‘Tyrant’ joins this year’s crop of hate reads," 2 May 2018 The episode is perfect insight into mainstream American views of othered places — Africa or Asia, New Orleans or Compton — a story limned by limited outsiders and thus nonrepresentative, objectified and objectionable. Tunde Wey, San Francisco Chronicle, "The power of those who get to tell the stories," 18 Mar. 2018 By definition, Wakanda was a concept whose reality could not be limned in the usual ways. Peter Manseau, Washington Post, "The surprising religious backstory of ‘Black Panther’s’ Wakanda," 7 Mar. 2018 Thompson and company are great at limning the circles of hell Schiller created especially for government servants. Tony Adler, Chicago Reader, "Two British monarchs duke it out in Schiller’s Mary Stuart," 7 Mar. 2018 Her upper body flows in arcs: Her softly curved right hand under her chin echoes the position of her left hand, draped over her leg — together the two arms limning an off-center, tilted heart shape. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "Michelle Obama’s Mount Rushmore Moment," 14 Feb. 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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Statistics for limn

Last Updated

2 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for limn

The first known use of limn was in 1592

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More from Merriam-Webster on limn

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with limn

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for limn

Britannica English: Translation of limn for Arabic Speakers

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