Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
July 11th, 2016
Episode 582 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 11, 2016 is: liminal \LIM-uh-nul\ adjective 1 : of or relating to a sensory threshold 2 : barely perceptible 3 : of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : in-between, transitional Examples: "Kipling is drawn to images of his characters sitting in perilous places, because he aims to communicate a liminal anxiety about identity and imperial history." — Tom Paulin, The Times Literary Supplement, 8 Mar. 2002 "Solnit suggests that separating the feeling of becoming lost from a feeling of fear leads to a certain kind of spiritual growth. In that liminal space, between what we know and what we can't imagine, we are remade." — Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 24 May 2016 Did you know? The noun limen refers to the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced, and liminal is the adjective used to describe things associated with that point, or threshold, as it is also called. Likewise, the closely related word subliminal means "below a threshold"; it can describe something inadequate to produce a sensation or something operating below a threshold of consciousness. Because the sensory threshold is a transitional point where sensations are just beginning to be perceptible, liminal acquired two extended meanings. It can mean "barely perceptible" and is now often used to mean "transitional" or "intermediate," as in "the liminal zone between sleep and wakefulness."