sublimate

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

Definition of sublimate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

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

sublimate

noun
sub·​li·​mate | \ ˈsə-blə-ˌmāt How to pronounce sublimate (audio) , -mət \

Definition of sublimate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a chemical product obtained by sublimation

Other Words from sublimate

Verb

sublimation \ ˌsə-​blə-​ˈmā-​shən How to pronounce sublimate (audio) \ noun

Did you know?

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.

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 When comets pass close to a star, the heat of the star causes their ice to sublimate, creating long, streaming tails that can stretch behind the comets. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 29 Apr. 2022 Vice presidents are enormously ambitious people who have to sublimate their own egos to serve a president's agenda while waiting in the wings — often fruitlessly — for the top job. Joel Mathis, The Week, 15 Nov. 2021 Since ice is a key component of a comet, when water starts to sublimate, the comet is also in danger of breaking apart. Dan Falk, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 Dec. 2021 On a dry, windy day, up to around two inches of snow can sublimate into the atmosphere. Steven R. Fassnacht, The Conversation, 27 July 2021 The fire is causing the frozen mass of snow to sublimate straight into water vapor, not liquid water. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 22 Feb. 2021 Each branch on the six arms looks almost like a feather because the flake has started to sublimate, or fade from a solid to gas, and has lost some hard angles. Leslie Nemo, Scientific American, 11 Feb. 2021 Jamison examines women’s long-standing conditioning against owning and expressing anger, instead sublimating their rage in sadness, which has historically been more acceptable. Sari Botton, Longreads, 22 Jan. 2018 In joining the two ideas, Clooney seems to be trying to make a point about the ignorance and sublimated evil of the white couple (played by Matt Damon and Julianne Moore) at the center of the darkly comedic main plot. David Sims, The Atlantic, 20 Sep. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sublimate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of sublimate

Verb

1559, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun

circa 1626, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sublimate

Verb

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

Learn More About sublimate

Time Traveler for sublimate

Time Traveler

The first known use of sublimate was in 1559

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About sublimate

Dictionary Entries Near sublimate

sublieutenant

sublimate

sublimation pressure

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for sublimate

Last Updated

5 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sublimate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sublimate. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for sublimate

sublimate

noun
sub·​li·​mate | \ ˈsəb-lə-ˌmāt How to pronounce sublimate (audio) , -mət How to pronounce sublimate (audio) \

Medical Definition of sublimate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

2 : a chemical product obtained by sublimation

sublimate

transitive verb
sub·​li·​mate | \ ˈsəb-lə-ˌmāt How to pronounce sublimate (audio) \
sublimated; sublimating

Medical Definition of sublimate (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : sublime
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

Nglish: Translation of sublimate for Spanish Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!