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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from sublime

Verb

sublimable \ sə-​ˈblī-​mə-​bəl How to pronounce sublimable (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

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, "How to Freeze-Dry Food," 8 Nov. 2018 While the TEB seemed like an awesome idea on paper, most of its advantages sublimed under scrutiny. Sebastian Anthony, Ars Technica, "China’s crazy car-straddling elevated bus is just a giant scam, police say," 5 July 2017 This dish is sublimely simple to make and sublime to eat. Susan Russo, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Fresh ways to mind your peas," 2 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Eyes are on the action: When the arena was redone in 1996-97, the extra seating sealed off a sublime aspect of the original Skidmore design — a seating dish that scalloped down on two sides to pull in views of the outside world. John King, SFChronicle.com, "A look at why pro basketball and Oracle Arena were a perfect fit," 7 June 2019 What elevates the shot from sublime to great is that the basketball doesn’t go in. Jason Gay, WSJ, "Bounce, Bounce, Bounce, Bounce—and a Basketball Shot for the Ages," 13 May 2019 The German's backheel into Aguero's path was nothing short of sublime as City came from behind to beat Burnley and safely secure their passage into the next round. SI.com, "6 of the Best Moments From a Great Weekend of FA Cup Action as Coventry and Forest Pull Off Shocks," 8 Jan. 2018 Three years in the making, the evening was a celebration of Russian style in the most quintessential of Qatari settings: Doha’s sublime Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I. M. Pei on a peninsula next to the Dhow Harbour and unveiled in 2008. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Giambattista Valli, Zac Posen, Imaan Hammam, and More Attended Natalia Vodianova’s Lavish Love Ball Arabia," 3 Apr. 2019 The seaplane dramatically skirts along the Arabian Gulf, meaning sublime ocean views from the luxurious onboard seats. Jim Berleley, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Dubai," 5 Oct. 2016 The actual working turned out to be, naturally, ragged at moments, and then basically kind of sublime. New York Times, "He’s Tried to Leave ‘Star Wars’ Before. Will This Be It?," 30 May 2018 Puskás had to settle for two goals, but the first was truly sublime. SI.com, "World Cup Countdown: 16 Weeks to Go – Ferenc Puskás, the Galloping Major Who Led the Magical Magyars," 1 Mar. 2018 Her late husband, Sam Beall, who died three years ago in a skiing accident, transformed his parents’ little inn at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains into a sublime destination. Vanessa Gregory, ELLE Decor, "A Recently Renovated Mid-Century Home in Knoxville, Tennessee," 7 Feb. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sublime

Statistics for sublime

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sublime

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sublime

sublime

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of sublime

: very beautiful or good : causing strong feelings of admiration or wonder
: complete or extreme

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on sublime

What made you want to look up sublime? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

incapable of being surmounted or overcome

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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!