• synonyms


[suhb-luh-mey-shuh n]
See more synonyms for sublimation on Thesaurus.com
  1. Psychology. the diversion of the energy of a sexual or other biological impulse from its immediate goal to one of a more acceptable social, moral, or aesthetic nature or use.
  2. Chemistry. the act, fact, or process of subliming(def 9).
  3. a purification or refinement; ennoblement.
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Related formssub·li·ma·tion·al, adjectivenon·sub·li·ma·tion, nounre·sub·li·ma·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

shyness, reticence, epitome, exemplar, apotheosis, embargo, bar, barrier, blockage, restraint, interference, prohibition, obstacle, suppression, interdict, check, prevention, reserve, sublimation, love

Examples from the Web for sublimation

Historical Examples

  • In them was seen a sublimation of all of her; it was not necessary to look further: there she lived.

    A Pair of Blue Eyes

    Thomas Hardy

  • The Freudian school of psychologists calls this "sublimation."

    A Preface to Politics

    Walter Lippmann

  • This in general is the process of substitution or sublimation.

  • It is further purified by sublimation or recrystallization from water.

    All About Coffee

    William H. Ukers

  • In the sublimation of sulphur, a pot containing about four cwt.

British Dictionary definitions for sublimation


  1. (in Freudian psychology) the diversion of psychic energy derived from sexual impulses into nonsexual activity, esp of a creative nature
  2. the process or an instance of sublimating
  3. something sublimated
  4. chem the process or instance or subliming
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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 sublimation


late 14c., in alchemy, "process of purifying by heating into a vapor," from Medieval Latin sublimationem (nominative sublimatio) "refinement," literally "a lifting up, deliverance," from Latin sublimare "to raise, elevate," from sublimis "lofty" (see sublime). Psychological sense is first recorded 1910, probably influenced by subliminal.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sublimation in Medicine


  1. The act or process of sublimating.
  2. Something that has been sublimated.
  3. An unconscious defense mechanism in which unacceptable instinctual drives and wishes are modified into more personally and socially acceptable channels.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

sublimation in Science


  1. The process of changing from a solid to a gas without passing through an intermediate liquid phase. Carbon dioxide, at a pressure of one atmosphere, sublimates at about -78 degrees Celsius. Ice and snow on the Earth's surface also sublimate at temperatures below the freezing point of water. Compare deposition.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

sublimation in Culture



In Freudian psychology, a defense mechanism by which the individual satisfies a socially prohibited instinctive drive (usually sexual or aggressive) through the substitution of socially acceptable behavior. For example, someone with strong sexual drives who paints nude portraits may be engaging in sublimation.

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In chemistry, the direct conversion of a solid into a gas, without passage through a liquid stage. (See phases of matter.)

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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.