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

Essential Meaning of threshold

1 : 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 He stepped across the threshold. When they were married he carried her over the threshold. [=he picked her up and carried her into their home when they entered it together for the first time]
2 : the point or level at which something begins or changes If your income rises above a certain threshold, your tax rate also rises. sounds that are above/below the threshold of hearing [=sounds that are too high/low to be heard] See More ExamplesI have a low threshold for boredom. [=I get bored easily] He has a high pain threshold. [=he does not feel pain as easily as other people]Hide

Full 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


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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 According to Spotrac, the salary Reed would receive if fully guaranteed by the January 10 deadline is just under $1.7 million, while the Nuggets are currently about $1.5 million under the luxury tax threshold. Joel Rush, Forbes, 27 Dec. 2021 Scholl says that overland, Boom will fly 20 percent faster than current jets—just under the boom threshold. Tom Vanderbilt, Wired, 20 Dec. 2021 The measure also increased the amount from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for children aged 6 through 17, for households earning under a certain threshold. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 8 Dec. 2021 In a few deals, the buyer assumed debt or other liabilities to keep the deal’s value under the reporting threshold. Scott Nover, Quartz, 7 Dec. 2021 Three more – the White Sox, Nationals and Giants – are less than $10 million under that threshold. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 30 Nov. 2021 Puleri’s house fall under that threshold is unclear. Scott Travis,, 19 Nov. 2021 The initial 12-vote difference fell far under the threshold for an automatic review of ballots. Charlie Savage,, 16 Nov. 2021 The watchdog Climate Action Tracker (CAT) warned on Tuesday that global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will still be roughly twice as high as what's necessary to stay under the 1.5-degree threshold. Angela Dewan, CNN, 9 Nov. 2021

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

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Dictionary Entries Near threshold

threshing machine


threshold exposure

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Last Updated

18 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Threshold.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2022.

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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


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