[ lim-uh-nl, lahy-muh- ]
/ ˈlɪm ə nl, ˈlaɪ mə- /
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adjective Psychology.
of, relating to, or situated at the limen.
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Origin of liminal

1880–85; <Latin līmin- (stem of līmen) threshold + -al1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does liminal mean?

Liminal is an adjective that’s used to describe things that exist at the threshold (or border) between one thing and another.

In psychology and physiology, the word more specifically means relating to the point (or threshold) beyond which a sensation becomes too faint to be experienced. In this way, liminal is an adjective form of the noun limen, which refers to this threshold.

Example: After graduation, many students find themselves in a liminal state before they’re fully established in the workplace.

Where does liminal come from?

The first records of the word liminal come from the late 1800s. It comes from the Latin līmen, meaning “threshold.” In its literal sense, a threshold is a doorway. Liminal is often used to describe the threshold, or gateway, between two stages.

When used in a general way, liminal is often used to describe in-between spaces, places, and feelings. Physical spaces described as liminal in this way often serve as transitional zones between one place and another—an airport might be described as liminal.

The noun form liminality is especially used in anthropology to refer to a state of transition between one stage and the next, especially between major stages in one’s life or during a rite of passage (such as puberty or marriage). Anthropologists often separate these events into preliminal, liminal, and postliminal stages. The liminal stage is the middle stage, the in-between period during which a person has not yet fully reached their new status in whatever rite of passage they are going through. (For example, being “the new kid” for a while when attending a new school, before being fully incorporated into a new group of friends.) Liminal stages like this are often marked by uncertainty.

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What are some other forms related to liminal?

What are some synonyms for liminal?

What are some words that share a root or word element with liminal

What are some words that often get used in discussing liminal?

How is ​liminal used in real life?

Liminal is most often used to describe transitional spaces and events.



Try using liminal!

Which of the following things could be described as liminal?

A. A political revolutionary period.
B. The period between a president’s election and inauguration.
C. A probationary period at a new job.
D. All of the above.

How to use liminal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for liminal

/ (ˈlɪmɪnəl) /

psychol relating to the point (or threshold) beyond which a sensation becomes too faint to be experienced

Word Origin for liminal

C19: from Latin 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

Medical definitions for liminal

[ lĭmə-nəl ]

Relating to a threshold.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.