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[lim] /lɪm/
verb (used with object)
to represent in drawing or painting.
to portray in words; describe.
Obsolete. to illuminate (manuscripts).
Origin of limn
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English lymne, variant of Middle English luminen to illuminate (manuscripts), aphetic variant of enlumine < Middle French enluminer < Latin inlūmināre to embellish, literally, light up; see illuminate
Related forms
outlimn, verb (used with object)
unlimned, adjective
Can be confused
limb, limn. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for limned
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This was an apparition too holy to be limned in artificial light.

    The Dragon Painter

    Mary McNeil Fenollosa
  • There was one only of the group who had not been limned by Miss Rothesay.

    Olive Dinah Maria Craik, (AKA Dinah Maria Mulock)
  • Its fiery parabola was limned against the sky toward the east.

  • Every feature of the old captains face was limned with grief.


    George Allan England
  • No one talks of "limning a missal," or of a "limned missal."

  • It was the Colonel beyond doubt, and Margaret had limned him to the life.

    The Yeoman Adventurer George W. Gough
  • We have plenty of portraits of him left, limned both with pen and with brush.

    Odd Bits of History Henry W. Wolff
  • The man with a few simple strokes of the brush had limned me his portrait.

    Merton of the Movies Harry Leon Wilson
  • But the words of Professor Maniel were limned on the retina of his brain in letters of fire.

British Dictionary definitions for limned


verb (transitive)
to represent in drawing or painting
(archaic) to describe in words
an obsolete word for illuminate
Derived Forms
limner (ˈlɪmnə) noun
Word Origin
C15: from Old French enluminer to illumine (a manuscript) from Latin inlūmināre to brighten, from lūmen light
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
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Word Origin and History for limned



early 15c., "to illuminate" (manuscripts), altered from Middle English luminen, "to illuminate manuscripts" (late 14c.), from Old French luminer "light up, illuminate," from Latin luminare "illuminate, burnish," from lumen (genitive luminis) "radiant energy, light," related to lucere "to shine" (see light (n.)). Sense of "portray, depict" first recorded 1590s. Related: Limned.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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