thresh·old | \ˈthresh-ˌhōld, ˈthre-ˌshōld\

Definition of threshold 

1 : the plank, stone, or piece of timber that lies under a door : sill

2a : gate, door

b(1) : end, boundary specifically : the end of a runway

(2) : the place or point of entering or beginning : outset on the threshold of a new age

3a : the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced has a high threshold for pain

b : a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not

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Did You Know?

The earliest known use of "threshold" in the English language is from Alfred the Great's Old English translation of the Roman philosopher Boethius's De consolatione philosophiae. In this translation, which was written around 888, "threshold" appears as "þeorscwold" (that first letter is called a 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 Old English "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."

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Getting to parity in Mexico Mexico started with a mandatory 30 percent quota for female candidates in the 2003 elections and raised the threshold to 40 percent for the 2009 elections. Magda Hinojosa, Washington Post, "Women won big in Mexico’s elections — taking nearly half the legislature’s seats. Here’s why.," 11 July 2018 The initiative would raise the threshold for all new taxes and tax increases to two-thirds. Alexei Koseff, sacbee, "Soda tax ban for California cities heads to Jerry Brown," 28 June 2018 Among them might be raising the threshold at which Canada taxes purchases of American goods from C$20 to around C$1,000, the American level. The Economist, "Donald Trump stomps on Canada’s economy," 14 June 2018 The most significant change was a bill signed by the president that raised the threshold at which banks must submit to annual Federal Reserve stress testing, to $250 billion of total assets from $50 billion. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Big Banks’ Regulatory Bonanza Not as Advertised," 14 June 2018 By raising the asset threshold to $250 billion, the law is expected reduce the number of banks subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny from 38 to 12. Washington Post,, "Trump signs law rolling back post-financial crisis banking rules," 24 May 2018 By raising the asset threshold to $250 billion, the law is expected reduce the number of banks subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny from 38 to 12. Erica Werner, idahostatesman, "Trump signs law rolling back banking rules, an effort led by Idaho's Sen. Crapo | Idaho Statesman," 24 May 2018 At no point, either, did any member bring up the 2016 law that raised the threshold the DEA must meet in order to conduct enforcement actions against wayward drug distributors and pharmacies. Lev Facher, STAT, "Congressman to drug distributors: ‘I just want you to feel shame’," 8 May 2018 Nearly two-thirds of the men who saw pharmacists lowered their pressure to under 130 over 80 — the threshold for high blood pressure under new guidelines adopted last fall. Marilynn Marchione, Fox News, "Barbershop study trimmed black men's hair and blood pressure," 12 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'threshold.' 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 threshold

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

History and Etymology for threshold

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

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Phrases Related to threshold

on/at the threshold

pain threshold

Statistics for threshold

Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for threshold

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

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More Definitions for threshold



English Language Learners Definition of threshold

: a piece of wood, metal, or stone that forms the bottom of a door and that you walk over as you enter a room or building

: the point or level at which something begins or changes


thresh·old | \ˈthresh-ˌhōld \

Kids Definition of threshold

1 : the sill of a door

2 : a point or place of beginning or entering Ralph had a scary feeling he was on the threshold of adventure.— Beverly Cleary, The Mouse and the Motorcycle


thresh·old | \ˈthresh-ˌ(h)ōld \

Medical Definition of threshold 

: 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

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thresh·old | \ˈthresh-ˌhōld \

Legal Definition of threshold 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: 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



Legal Definition of threshold (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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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Comments on threshold

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a state of commotion or excitement

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