sublimate

1 of 2

verb

sub·​li·​mate ˈsə-blə-ˌmāt How to pronounce sublimate (audio)
sublimated; sublimating

transitive verb

1
b
archaic : to improve or refine as if by subliming
2
: to divert the expression of (an instinctual desire or impulse) from its unacceptable form to one that is considered more socially or culturally acceptable

intransitive verb

: to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state : sublime
sublimation noun

sublimate

2 of 2

noun

sub·​li·​mate ˈsə-blə-ˌmāt How to pronounce sublimate (audio)
-mət
: a chemical product obtained by sublimation

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To sublimate is to change the form, but not the essence. Physically speaking, it means to transform solid to vapor; psychologically, it means changing the outlet, or means, of expression from something base and inappropriate to something more positive or acceptable. The word sublimate comes from the Latin verb sublimare, which means "to lift up" or "to raise" and which is also the ancestor of our sublime. Sublimate itself once meant "to elevate to a place of dignity or honor" or "to give a more elevated character to," but these meanings are now obsolete.

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Sublime vs. Sublimate

At first glance, the question of whether sublime and sublimate are related might seem like an easy one to answer, as they appear to come from the same source. However, the most common senses in which each of these words is used today are dissimilar enough to give pause. The two words are indeed related, and in some senses are in fact synonymous. Both share the meaning “to cause to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state and condense back to solid form,” although this is not widely used except among chemists. Sublime was first used as a verb with the above meaning, and after a century or two of such use took on the adjectival role in which it is often found today (“the concert was a sublime experience”). Sublimate has had several meanings as a verb (including “to elevate to a place of honor” and “to give a more elevated character to”) before coming to its common meaning today, which is “to divert the expression of (an instinctual desire or impulse) from its unacceptable form to one that is considered more socially or culturally acceptable.”

Examples of sublimate in a Sentence

Verb She sublimated her erotic feelings into a series of paintings. I sublimated my grief at the death of my mother by throwing myself into my work.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
The image shows an area of sand dunes on Mars in the springtime, when carbon dioxide frost is sublimating into the air. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, 29 May 2024 So fire has disappeared in many domestic settings, sublimated into electricity. Stephen Pyne, Scientific American, 16 Apr. 2024 Lapid, for his part, has demonstrated an unusual willingness to sublimate his ego to the higher cause of removing Netanyahu from office and admirable skill in patching together this coalition of opposites. Martin Indyk, Foreign Affairs, 15 June 2021 Sidekick to: Jack Tripper Three's Company's Jack Tripper (John Ritter) had to sublimate his heterosexuality to keep Mr. Roper happy, but his good buddy Larry (Richard Kline) boasted enough libido for the both of them. Ew Staff Updated, EW.com, 6 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for sublimate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sublimate.' 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

Verb

Middle English, from Medieval Latin sublimatus, past participle of sublimare

First Known Use

Verb

1559, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun

circa 1626, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sublimate was in 1559

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Dictionary Entries Near sublimate

Cite this Entry

“Sublimate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sublimate. Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

sublimate

verb
sub·​li·​mate
ˈsəb-lə-ˌmāt
sublimated; sublimating
1
2
: to direct the expression of (a desire or emotion) from an unacceptable form to one that is considered proper by one's culture or society
sublimation
ˌsəb-lə-ˈmā-shən
noun

Medical Definition

sublimate

1 of 2 noun
sub·​li·​mate ˈsəb-lə-ˌmāt How to pronounce sublimate (audio) -mət How to pronounce sublimate (audio)
1
2
: a chemical product obtained by sublimation

sublimate

2 of 2 transitive verb
sub·​li·​mate ˈsəb-lə-ˌmāt How to pronounce sublimate (audio)
sublimated; sublimating
1
2
: to divert the expression of (an instinctual desire or impulse) from its unacceptable form to one that is considered more socially or culturally acceptable

More from Merriam-Webster on sublimate

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