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 formssub·lim·i·nal·ly, adverbnon·sub·lim·i·nal, adjectivenon·sub·lim·i·nal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for subliminal

Contemporary Examples of subliminal

Historical Examples of subliminal

  • 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.

  • 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 Formssubliminally, adverb

Word Origin for subliminal

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

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

Medicine definitions for subliminal




Below the threshold of conscious perception. Used of stimuli.
Inadequate to produce conscious awareness but able to evoke a response.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.