Definition of liminal in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈlɪmɪn(ə)l/


1Relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
Example sentences
  • Through a ritual process, centered upon a liminal stage of revelation and testing, the evangelist shows Jesus' true identity as a holy man, capable of brokering God's patronage on his people.
  • Anthropologists have frequently problematised the exciting, fraught and profoundly liminal stage that human beings traverse between childhood and adulthood.
  • We are in this transitional, liminal phase, of waiting to see what are the appropriate questions to be asking about human possibility and about the human condition.
2Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
Example sentences
  • Facts about the direction of one's attention occupy a curiously liminal position in respect to the divide between the rational and the non-rational in our psychological lives.
  • They occupy the liminal space between us and other, civilization and barbarism, human and beast, the real and the imaginary, attraction and repulsion.
  • The liminal position between tradition and adaptation has been described by Ralph Ellison as the quintessential American identity.



Pronunciation: /lɪmɪˈnalɪti/
Example sentences
  • He gives the example of initiation into adulthood as a period of liminality in Ndembu society, when the norms of everyday life no longer pertain.
  • These barriers, located in the near environment, sometimes unknowingly accepted by us and often tacitly deployed through routine decisions and judgments, persist as a vestige of our liminality…
  • Pertaining to baroque poetics and a major feature of perception is Iago's strategy of liminality, by which he conducts his victim to the door of perception, whether visual or verbal.


Late 19th century: from Latin limen, limin- 'threshold' + -al.

Words that rhyme with liminal

criminal, subliminal

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: lim|inal

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.