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

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.

Did you know?

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
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 Decimated by his wife's accidental death, Dougie alternates between sublimating and wallowing in his gnawing, all-consuming guilt. EW.com, 6 Nov. 2023 Antarctic Clue Spotting the difference between features formed by liquid water and sublimating water is hard, not least because sublimation occurs on Earth only in locations such as the dry valleys of Antarctica, and so is hard to study. The Physics Arxiv Blog, Discover Magazine, 27 Nov. 2023 Plaza usually plays smart, remote, upper-middle-class women who sublimate their anger into humor. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 20 Nov. 2023 An ironic name for a writer, though his son Alexander does often sublimate his voice to let others tell their own stories. Thomas Beller, Washington Post, 23 June 2023 Killers is the first time Scorsese tailored a movie to such a craven political moment rather than exploring the politics sublimated in specific, antisocial characters. Armond White, National Review, 8 Nov. 2023 Outer material could have either sublimated and then been lost to space. Elizabeth Rayne, Ars Technica, 14 Oct. 2023 In both fighting and dance, the body is the main vehicle of expression—ideas, emotions, and history are sublimated into movements that can be explosively deliberate or tranquil. Jasper Lo, The New Yorker, 12 Sep. 2023

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 May. 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

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