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, drastically lowered $600 threshold to receive a tax reporting form from third-party settlement organizations such as Venmo and PayPal is delayed yet again. Andrew Paul, Popular Science, 22 Nov. 2023 At what point in the research phase, for example, would a firm cross the threshold into officially considering a transaction? Robert Faturechi, ProPublica, 21 Nov. 2023 The commemorations came on the same day the United Nations reported that its estimate of the number of civilians killed during the war so far had passed the symbolic threshold of 10,000. Constant Méheut, New York Times, 21 Nov. 2023 Mark Kelly While rarely a bearer of good news, the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday postponed a $600 reporting threshold for payments received via online platforms such as Venmo, eBay and Airbnb . The Editorial Board, WSJ, 21 Nov. 2023 While tens of millions of songs will fall below the 1,000 streams threshold, a source tells Billboard that policy will only shift about 0.5% of Spotify’s royalty pool to more popular tracks. Lars Brandle, Billboard, 21 Nov. 2023 Rather than solely seek out funds that have hit a certain threshold of assets under management, Pivotal’s investment team takes into account other factors—like founder feedback about working with the fund. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 14 Nov. 2023 One drawback is that fans have limited effectiveness, or may even be counterproductive, above around 95°F – although debate continues about this threshold. Christine Ro, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 In her order, Bass instructed the city’s planning department to report on the preparation of an ordinance that would increase the threshold needed to trigger site plan review. David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, 11 Nov. 2023 See More

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 30 Nov. 2023.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on threshold

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