thresh·​old | \ ˈthresh-ˌhōld How to pronounce threshold (audio) , 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

Synonyms for threshold


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Seniors also would no longer have to pay 5% of their drug’s total cost after their out-of-pocket spending exceeds a certain threshold, which is $7,050 this year. Joseph Walker, WSJ, 31 July 2022 The coaching will be free to any adult who does not have a bachelor’s degree, as well as those who do have college degrees and fall below a certain income threshold, which the mayor’s office did not immediately specify on Thursday. Julie Zauzmer Weil, Washington Post, 7 July 2022 The government’s share of total costs above Medicare Part D’s catastrophic threshold (and beneficiary spending cap) would go from 80% to 20% for brand-name drugs and to 40% for generics. Joshua Cohen, Forbes, 1 July 2022 The study calculates that, if those countries were able to vaccinate enough people to reach the 40% threshold, 600,000 deaths—or about 10% of the current reported death toll—might have been prevented. Nicholas Gordon, Fortune, 24 June 2022 The no-confidence vote was first triggered after 54 Tory lawmakers — more than the required 15 percent threshold — confidentially and formally requested one. Brigid Kennedy, The Week, 7 June 2022 Several other states are on the verge of reaching the $5 threshold, such as Pennsylvania, where the average per-gallon cost is currently $4.98; and Idaho, where the typical driver is paying $4.97 a gallon. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 7 June 2022 But that’s still less than half the threshold of 10 that would land the county in the high community level. Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2022 Meanwhile, the federal EV tax credit only applies to automakers that have sold fewer than 200,000 EVs; once a company crosses that sales threshold, its customers no longer qualify for a tax credit. Nicolás Rivero, Quartz, 14 May 2022 See More

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.

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

Buying Guide

The Reviews team is passionate about cleaning and reviewed the Shark Vertex Pro Vacuum.

Learn More About threshold

Time Traveler for threshold

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About threshold

Dictionary Entries Near threshold

threshing machine


threshold exposure

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for threshold

Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Threshold.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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

More Definitions for threshold


thresh·​old | \ ˈthresh-ˌhōld How to pronounce threshold (audio) \

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 How to pronounce threshold (audio) \

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


thresh·​old | \ ˈthresh-ˌhōld How to pronounce threshold (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on threshold

Nglish: Translation of threshold for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of threshold for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!