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From Latin līminālis, from līmen (doorstep, threshold; doorway, entrance; beginning, commencement)[1] + -ālis (suffix forming adjectives of relationship from nouns). Līmen is possibly derived from līmus (askew; sideways) (possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *Heh₃l- (to bend, bow; elbow)) + -men (suffix forming neuter nouns of the third declension) (from Proto-Indo-European *-mn̥ (suffix forming action nouns or result nouns from verbs)).


  • IPA(key): /ˈlɪmən(ə)l/
  • Hyphenation: li‧min‧al
    • (file)


liminal (comparative more liminal, superlative most liminal)

  1. Of or pertaining to an entrance or threshold. [from late 19th c.]
    Synonym: thresholdlike
    • 1870, Tertullian, “Of Modesty”, in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors, Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, volume XVIII (The Writings of Tertullian, Vol. III. with the Extant Works of Victorinus and Commodianus), Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, [], OCLC 38159344, page 56:
      [W]ith the utmost strictness, we excommunicate digamists, as bringing infamy upon the Paraclete by the irregularity of their discipline. The selfsame liminal limit we fix for adulterers also and fornicators; dooming them to pour forth tears barren of peace, and to regain from the church no ampler return than the publication of their disgrace.
    • 1972, Barbara Bockus Aponte, quoting Alfonso Reyes, “Ramón del Valle-Inclán”, in Alfonso Reyes and Spain: His Dialogue with Unamuno, Valle-Inclán, Ortega y Gasset, Jiménez, and Gómez de la Serna, Austin, Tex.; London: University of Texas Press, →ISBN, page 87:
      There is a reminiscence, which comes and goes, of Mexican words, of Mexican turns of speech and puns. It is a murmur that wanders in the liminal part of his soul, but the writer [Ramón del Valle-Inclán] lets it be felt with full consciousness of what he is doing.
    • 1999, Sarah Iles Johnston, “Divinities and the Dead”, in Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece, Berkeley; Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 209:
      [S]paces such as the threshold of a door are "liminal," lying between otherwise defined areas without belonging to either of them. All over the world, [] liminal situations are associated with demons.
    • 2007, Erica Eaton, “Making Liminal Spaces Visible: Art as Active Seeing: Preface”, in Erica Eaton and Tara Smelt, editors, Liminal: Spaces-in-between Visible and Invisible, Rochester, N.Y.: Evolutionary Girls, →ISBN, page iii, column 1:
      Art functions as a way of creating knowledge that considers and includes liminal space. As artists, we reflect what is seen, what is experienced and the spaces in-between: that which we know but cannot explain, that which is common human experience—it connects us.
    • 2012, Bjørn Thomassen, “Revisiting Liminality: The Danger of Empty Spaces”, in Hazel Andrews and Les Roberts, editors, Liminal Landscapes: Travel, Experience and Spaces in-between (Contemporary Geographies of Leisure, Tourism and Mobility), Abingdon, Oxon.; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, part I (Navigating Liminality: Theory, Method, Strategy), page 22:
      Caves have been, in many cultures, crucial liminal spaces where shamanistic ekstases occurred, bringing humans into contact with the spirits or the beyond. [] It is now a well-accepted hypothesis that cave paintings, such as the famous ones at Lascaux, must be interpreted as being part of ritual passages and actual liminal experiences.
  2. Of or pertaining to a beginning or first stage of a process. [from late 19th c.]
    Synonyms: inceptive, inchoative, marginal
    • 1875, D. L[udimar] Hermann; Arthur Gamgee, transl., Elements of Human Physiology: [...] Translated from the Fifth Edition [...], London: Smith, Elder & Co., [], page 518:
      If it be assumed [] (2) that the imperceptible value which it [resistance] finally attains is equal to the liminal intensity of the stimulus; and (3) that the intensity of the sensation is proportionate to the magnitude of the area of the circle of irradiation,—the same relation between strength of stimulus, liminal intensity, and intensity of sensation is found as is expressed by 'Fechner's formula' (Maassformel).
    • 1884, James Sully, “Sensation”, in Outlines of Psychology: With Special Reference to the Theory of Education. A Text-book for Colleges, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton and Company, 1, 3, and 5 Bond Street, OCLC 41317157, page 114:
      Every stimulus must reach a certain intensity before any appreciable sensation results. This point is known as the threshold or liminal intensity.
    • 2020 August 7, Jonathan Liew, “Phil Foden stars to offer Manchester City glimpse of multiple futures”, in The Guardian[1]:
      If it felt like a passing of the torch, then on a night of silent jubilee for City it was also a liminal moment for Foden himself: the point at which he stopped being potential. When he stopped being the future and became the present.

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liminal (feminine singular liminale, masculine plural liminaux, feminine plural liminales)

  1. liminal

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