thresh·​old ˈthresh-ˌhōld How to pronounce threshold (audio)
: the plank, stone, or piece of timber that lies under a door : sill
: gate, door
: end, boundary
specifically : the end of a runway
: the place or point of entering or beginning : outset
on the threshold of a new age
: the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced
has a high threshold for pain
: a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not

Did you know?

Whenever you leave your home, walk from one room to another, or enter a building, you are crossing a threshold—that is, the horizontal floor piece that you cross over whenever you move through a doorway. But the earliest uses of threshold refer to a different type of boundary: an Old English translation of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae uses the word in a sentence about how the sea was made so that it didn’t overstep the "threshold," or boundary, of the earth. In this translation, which was written around 888, threshold appears as þeorscwold (that first letter is called thorn and it was used in Old English and Middle English to indicate the sounds produced by th in thin and this). The origins of this Old English word are not known, though it is believed to be related to the Old English word threscan, from which we get the words thresh, meaning "to separate seed from (a harvested plant) using a machine or tool" and thrash, meaning, among other things, "to beat soundly with or as if with a stick or whip." But there's nothing in the historical record that directly ties threshing to the threshold.

Examples of threshold in a Sentence

… we still hadn't grasped that we had crossed a threshold where it no longer mattered what passport you carried, that you were young and loved, … or that you were a noncombatant. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, April 2008
As we speak, the very worst of humanity is on the threshold of acquiring the most powerful weapons in history—this is a fear and a consideration to be taken very seriously. Charles Krauthammer, New Republic, 29 Apr. 2002
We thought that we were on the threshold of an age of space travel. But the greatest impact of the trip to the moon was on how we view the Earth. Suzannah Lessard, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2001
He stepped across the threshold. If your income rises above a certain threshold, your tax rate also rises.
Recent Examples on the Web The new rule, which is likely to be challenged in court, prevents migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border when the number of unauthorized crossings exceed a certain threshold. Edgar Sandoval, New York Times, 7 June 2024 Their market caps crossed the threshold yesterday (a rally that pushed the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to new heights), and Nvidia even jumped ahead of Apple — but Microsoft still is the world’s most valuable company, for now. Morgan Haefner, Quartz, 6 June 2024 While breaking a 50% voter turnout threshold was considered a major step forward in 2019, an EU Parliament survey says 71% could vote in the upcoming elections, another massive step forward. Eli Joseph, Fortune Europe, 5 June 2024 Two of the most significant efforts to put guardrails around the advanced AI models—the E.U. AI Act and President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on AI—set a threshold in terms of computational power used to train an AI model, above which stricter rules apply. Will Henshall, TIME, 5 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for threshold 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'threshold.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English thresshold, from Old English threscwald; akin to Old Norse threskjǫldr threshold, Old English threscan to thresh

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of threshold was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near threshold

Cite this Entry

“Threshold.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


thresh·​old ˈthresh-ˌ(h)ōld How to pronounce threshold (audio)
: the section of wood or stone that lies under a door
: the place or point of beginning
at the threshold of an adventure
: the point or level at which a physical or mental effect begins to be produced
the threshold of hearing

Medical Definition


thresh·​old ˈthresh-ˌ(h)ōld How to pronounce threshold (audio)
: the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced (as the degree of stimulation of a nerve which just produces a response or the concentration of sugar in the blood at which sugar just begins to pass the barrier of the kidneys and enter the urine)
below the threshold of consciousness
the threshold of pain
a high renal clearance threshold

called also limen

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
thresh·​old ˈthresh-ˌhōld How to pronounce threshold (audio)
: a point of beginning : a minimum requirement for further action
specifically : a determination (as of fact or the existence of a reasonable doubt) upon which something else (as further consideration or a right of action) hinges
the threshold for inquiry


2 of 2 adjective
: of, relating to, or being a threshold
the threshold issue in a negligence action is whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiffNoakes v. City of Seattle, 895 P.2d 842 (1995)
a threshold showing of the need for psychiatric evaluation

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