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[suhb-lim-uh-nl] /sʌbˈlɪm ə nl/
adjective, Psychology.
existing or operating below the threshold of consciousness; being or employing stimuli insufficiently intense to produce a discrete sensation but often being or designed to be intense enough to influence the mental processes or the behavior of the individual:
a subliminal stimulus; subliminal advertising.
Origin of subliminal
1885-90; sub- + Latin līmin- (stem of līmen) threshold + -al1
Related forms
subliminally, adverb
nonsubliminal, adjective
nonsubliminally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for subliminal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • My subliminal self knew what was going to happen, and was on the job, that's all.

    Queen Sheba's Ring H. Rider Haggard
  • “It is evidently a subliminal self coming to the surface,” he pronounced.

  • They are, in the language of Myers, uprushes from the subliminal self.

    The Drama of Love and Death Edward Carpenter
  • More than this—with some it was extended, and subliminal powers were set free.

    The Bright Messenger Algernon Blackwood
  • Geley, Dr., his hypothesis of subliminal consciousness, 434.

    Mysterious Psychic Forces Camille Flammarion
British Dictionary definitions for subliminal


resulting from processes of which the individual is not aware
(of stimuli) less than the minimum intensity or duration required to elicit a response
Derived Forms
subliminally, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from Latin sub- below + līmen threshold
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 subliminal

1886, "below the threshold" (of consciousness), formed from sub "below" (see sub-) + Latin limen (genitive liminis) "threshold" (see limit (n.)).

Apparently a loan-translation of German unter der Schwelle (des Bewusstseins) "beneath the threshold (of consciousness)," from Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), author of a textbook on psychology published in 1824. The scare over subliminal advertising came in 1957.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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subliminal in Medicine

subliminal sub·lim·i·nal (sŭb-lĭm'ə-nəl)

  1. Below the threshold of conscious perception. Used of stimuli.

  2. Inadequate to produce conscious awareness but able to evoke a response.

sub·lim'i·nal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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