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

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Other Words from sublimate

Verb

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

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.”

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Verb

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 "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.

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 aim of this new case is to sublimate our bottles, while preserving the quality of the champagne. Katie Chang, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2021 As for rape culture, as for male violence, sports could help sublimate those things. New York Times, 16 Mar. 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 The benevolent fan is one who feels virtuous for being brave enough, cool enough, progressive enough to sublimate themselves to someone inferior. Tressie Mcmillan Cottom, Harper's BAZAAR, 17 Dec. 2020 For Wade Williams, Saugus’ video teacher, throwing himself into the project has also been a way to sublimate difficult feelings. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 2020 Hartley is even willing to sublimate his ego, especially if Willis joins Kevin in an action movie. Dan Snierson, EW.com, 29 June 2020 Salt lowers the melting temperature of ice, so under these conditions, water ice sitting atop the briny soils immediately begins to melt first before sublimating away into the atmosphere. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, 13 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When the climate is a bit warmer, parts of the methane ice sublimate away, heading straight back to gas form, according to the new study. Sarah Lewin Frasier, Scientific American, 27 Sep. 2017 Io leaves Jupiter's shadow after 1.7 Earth days, which is 2 hours of Io's day, and the sulfur dioxide sublimates—goes straight from solid to gas—and pumps up the atmosphere once again when the moon re-enters sunlight. Sarah Lewin Frasier, Scientific American, 4 Aug. 2016 An initially smooth snowpack sublimates at different rates in different spots, causing small pits to form in some places. Mike Wall, Space.com, 8 Oct. 2018 The slopes are probably being continuously exposed as the ice sublimates into the Martian atmosphere, likely to cycle up to the poles and end up frozen there. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 11 Jan. 2018 An initially smooth snowpack sublimates at different rates in different spots, causing small pits to form in some places. Mike Wall, Space.com, 8 Oct. 2018 The slopes are probably being continuously exposed as the ice sublimates into the Martian atmosphere, likely to cycle up to the poles and end up frozen there. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 11 Jan. 2018

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for sublimate

Time Traveler

The first known use of sublimate was in 1559

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Cite this Entry

“Sublimate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sublimate. Accessed 27 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for sublimate

sublimate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of sublimate

psychology : to express a desire or feeling by changing it into a form that is socially acceptable

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

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