• synonyms


See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural lim·bos.
  1. (often initial capital letter) Roman Catholic Theology. a region on the border of hell or heaven, serving as the abode after death of unbaptized infants (limbo of infants) and of the righteous who died before the coming of Christ (limbo of the fathers or limbo of the patriarchs).
  2. a place or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past, or out of date: My youthful hopes are in the limbo of lost dreams.
  3. an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place.
  4. a place or state of imprisonment or confinement.

Origin of limbo1

1300–50; Middle English, from Medieval Latin phrase in limbō on hell's border (Latin: on the edge), equivalent to in on + limbō, ablative of limbus edge, border (L), place bordering on hell (ML); see limbus1


noun, plural lim·bos.
  1. a dance from the West Indies, originally for men only, in which the dancer bends backward from the knees and moves with a shuffling step under a horizontal bar that is lowered after each successive pass.

Origin of limbo2

1955–60; compare Jamaican English limba to bend, easily bending; see limber1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for limbo

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

British Dictionary definitions for limbo


noun plural -bos
  1. (often capital) RC Church the supposed abode of infants dying without baptism and the just who died before Christ
  2. an imaginary place for lost, forgotten, or unwanted persons or things
  3. an unknown intermediate place or condition between two extremesin limbo
  4. a prison or confinement

Word Origin

C14: from Medieval Latin in limbo on the border (of hell)


noun plural -bos
  1. a Caribbean dance in which dancers pass, while leaning backwards, under a bar

Word Origin

C20: origin uncertain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for limbo


"region supposed to exist on the border of Hell" reserved for pre-Christian saints (Limbus patrum) and unbaptized infants (Limbus infantum);" c.1300, from Latin limbo, ablative of limbus "edge, border" (see limb (2)). It emerged from Latin in the ablative form from frequent use in phrases such as in limbo (patrum), etc. Figurative sense of "condition of neglect or oblivion" is from 1640s.


dance in which the dancer bends backward and passes under a bar, 1956, of W.Indian origin, probably an alteration of limber.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

limbo in Culture


In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the afterlife, the condition of innocent persons who die without benefit of baptism; those in limbo do not suffer damnation, but they do not enjoy the presence of God. Limbo means “a bordering place.”


Figuratively, “limbo” is a state of nonresolution or uncertainty: “Until he receives notice of his new posting, he'll be in limbo.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with limbo


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

  • About
  • Cookies, Terms, & Privacy
© 2018 Dictionary.com, LLC.