[ lim-uh-nal-i-tee ]
/ ˌlɪm əˈnæl ɪ ti /
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noun Anthropology.
the transitional period or phase of a rite of passage, during which the participant lacks social status or rank, remains anonymous, shows obedience and humility, and follows prescribed forms of conduct, dress, etc.
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Origin of liminality

<Latin līmin- (stem of līmen) threshold + -al1 + -ity
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does liminality mean?

Liminality is a state of transition between one stage and the next, especially between major stages in one’s life or during a rite of passage.

The concept of liminality was first developed and is used most often in the science of anthropology (the study of human origins, behavior, and culture). In a general sense, liminality is an in-between period, typically marked by uncertainty.

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

Where does liminality come from?

Liminality comes from the Latin līmen, meaning “threshold,” combined with the suffixes -al (meaning “pertaining to”) and -ity (used to form abstract nouns expressing state or condition). In its literal sense, a threshold is a doorway. So liminality is the threshold, or gateway, between two stages.

The concept of liminality was developed by French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep in his 1909 book The Rites of Passage and was further expanded by British anthropologist Victor Turner. The word is first recorded in a 1964 work by Turner.

Both van Gennep and Turner studied rites of passage (major life events or ceremonies, such as puberty or marriage) in human communities and observed how they often had similar stages. Van Gennep separated these into the 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.)

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What are some other forms of liminality?

What are some synonyms for liminality?

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

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

How is liminality used in real life?

Liminality can be used in the context of any rite of passage or transitional space, including personal life events, religious rites, or legal systems.



Try using liminality!

Which of the following is an example of liminality?

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.