noun thresh·old \ ˈthresh-ˌhōld , ˈthre-ˌshōld \
|Updated on: 6 Aug 2018

Definition of threshold

1 : the plank, stone, or piece of timber that lies under a door : sill
2 a : 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
3 a : 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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Examples of threshold in a Sentence

  1. … 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 SalopekNational GeographicApril 2008
  2. 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 KrauthammerNew Republic29 Apr. 2002
  3. 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 LessardWilson QuarterlySummer 2001
  4. He stepped across the threshold.

  5. If your income rises above a certain threshold, your tax rate also rises.

Recent Examples of threshold from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of threshold

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

Other Building Terms

THRESHOLD Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of threshold for English Language Learners

  • : 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

THRESHOLD Defined for Kids


noun thresh·old \ ˈthresh-ˌhōld \

Definition of threshold for Students

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

Medical Dictionary


noun 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

Law Dictionary



noun thresh·old \ ˈthresh-ˌhōld \

legal Definition of threshold

: 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

: 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 plaintiff
  • Noakes v. City of Seattle, 895 P.2d 842 (1995)
  • a threshold showing of the need for psychiatric evaluation

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excessive admiration or flattery

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