sublime

verb
sub·​lime | \ sə-ˈblīm How to pronounce sublime (audio) \
sublimed; subliming

Definition of sublime

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to cause to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state and condense back to solid form
2 [French sublimer, from Latin sublimare]
a(1) : to elevate or exalt especially in dignity or honor
(2) : to render finer (as in purity or excellence)
b : to convert (something inferior) into something of higher worth

intransitive verb

: to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state

sublime

adjective
sub·​lime | \ sə-ˈblīm How to pronounce sublime (audio) \
sublimer; sublimest

Definition of sublime (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : lofty, grand, or exalted in thought, expression, or manner
b : of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth
c : tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence
2a archaic : high in place
b obsolete : lofty of mien : haughty
c capitalized : supreme used in a style of address
d : complete, utter sublime ignorance

Other Words from sublime

Verb

sublimable \ sə-​ˈblī-​mə-​bəl How to pronounce sublime (audio) \ adjective
sublimer noun

Adjective

sublimely adverb
sublimeness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sublime

Adjective

splendid, resplendent, gorgeous, glorious, sublime, superb mean extraordinarily or transcendently impressive. splendid implies outshining the usual or customary. the wedding was a splendid occasion resplendent suggests a glowing or blazing splendor. resplendent in her jewelry gorgeous implies a rich splendor especially in display of color. a gorgeous red dress glorious suggests radiance that heightens beauty or distinction. a glorious sunset sublime implies an exaltation or elevation almost beyond human comprehension. a vision of sublime beauty superb suggests an excellence reaching the highest conceivable degree. her singing was superb

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 sublime in a Sentence

Verb … models indicate that frost in most of the southern hemisphere is currently subliming, thinning the surface deposits. — William B. McKinnon et al., Encyclopedia Of The Solar System, 1999 The cursory remarks of the large-minded stranger, of whom he knew absolutely nothing beyond a commonplace name, were sublimed by his death, and influenced Clare more than all the reasoned ethics of the philosophers. — Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 1891 Adjective New Orleans is not just a list of attractions or restaurants or ceremonies, no matter how sublime and subtle. New Orleans is the interaction among all those things, and countless more. — Tom Piazza, Why New Orleans Matters, 2005 Judging by the satisfied look that settles on both men's faces, the meal was sublime. — Kathleen Brennan, Saveur, November 2004 Even when he is paying homage to her sublime beauty, he cannot resist inserting himself as the man responsible for unleashing that beauty's potency. — Zoë Heller, New Republic, 21 May 2001 He composed some of the most sublime symphonies in existence. the sublime beauty of the canyon See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Each one of them was the historical equivalent of a chemical phase change—when water, say, grows hot enough to sublime into steam or cold enough to harden into ice. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, 11 July 2021 Imprinted in the light of these wisps of subliming vapor are the fingerprints of a comet’s chemical composition. Quanta Magazine, 29 Jan. 2020 Next, the ice will sublime out of them—that’s when water goes straight from ice to gas without turning to liquid first, remember? Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, 8 Nov. 2018 While the TEB seemed like an awesome idea on paper, most of its advantages sublimed under scrutiny. Sebastian Anthony, Ars Technica, 5 July 2017 This dish is sublimely simple to make and sublime to eat. Susan Russo, sandiegouniontribune.com, 2 May 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The show’s selection of music and needle drops has always been sublime. Scott Huver, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Aug. 2022 Some of it was sublime, like the octopus salad, which grabbed my soul with suction cups and eight arms of saudade. Brian Amaral, BostonGlobe.com, 9 June 2022 Horses are symbols and stories — some banal, others sublime. Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug. 2021 The new one is sublime, so why would Apple replace it, especially so soon? David Phelan, Forbes, 28 June 2022 And of course, the Lillard-Nurkic pick-and-roll game at times can be sublime. oregonlive, 14 May 2022 His aural arrangements, which only heighten the fear and tension of some of the film’s most pivotal and gruesome scenes, are sublime, and the hopes are the music branch don’t suffer from short-term memory loss in the next seven months. Clayton Davis, Variety, 5 May 2022 The storytelling is as vivid as the vocals are sublime. Ed Masley, The Arizona Republic, 1 May 2022 And with spring officially in the air and summer just around the corner, right now – just ahead of the upcoming travel rush – is a sublime time to schedule a trip to the City of Roses. Katie Chang, Forbes, 27 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of sublime

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Adjective

circa 1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sublime

Verb

Middle English, from Middle French sublimer, from Medieval Latin sublimare to refine, sublime, from Latin, to elevate, from sublimis

Adjective

Latin sublimis, literally, high, elevated

Learn More About sublime

Time Traveler for sublime

Time Traveler

The first known use of sublime was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near sublime

sublimator

sublime

sublimed blue lead

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for sublime

Cite this Entry

“Sublime.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sublime. Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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

More Definitions for sublime

sublime

adjective
sub·​lime | \ sə-ˈblīm How to pronounce sublime (audio) \

Kids Definition of sublime

1 : grand or noble in thought, expression, or manner sublime truths
2 : beautiful or impressive enough to arouse a feeling of admiration and wonder sublime scenery

sublime

verb
sub·​lime | \ sə-ˈblīm How to pronounce sublime (audio) \
sublimed; subliming

Medical Definition of sublime

transitive verb

: to cause to pass from the solid to the vapor state by heating and to condense back to solid form

intransitive verb

: to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state

More from Merriam-Webster on sublime

Nglish: Translation of sublime for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sublime for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sublime

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

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!