Definition of liminal in English:



  • 1Relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.

    • ‘We are in a transitional and liminal time: this makes everything unsettled and awkward, and most of us feel tremendous unrest and a sense of urgency.’
    • ‘At death, the body enters upon a brief liminal stage which ends at the committal.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We invite you to send us your thoughts, feelings, and rants concerning our liminal stage of personal and professional life.’
    • ‘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.

    • ‘In order to learn to communicate with his or her god, each priest spends a considerable length of time in the bush, outside of the confines of everyday life, in a liminal zone.’
    • ‘The liminal position between tradition and adaptation has been described by Ralph Ellison as the quintessential American identity.’
    • ‘These two gestures tie the building to its context, the restaurant's corner placing and angular stance making it more liminal: a transitional space between hospital and outside world.’
    • ‘They occupy the liminal space between us and other, civilization and barbarism, human and beast, the real and the imaginary, attraction and repulsion.’
    • ‘Dawn and dusk, as liminal transition spaces, represent critical interaction arenas: it is here that locally shared perspectives are created and sustained.’
    • ‘And the ordeal of initiation necessitates this brush with exotic death, for the liminal space in the journey of the rite of passage is about the annihilation of self.’
    • ‘No other calling I know requires such repeated presence at the liminal places of human life - hospital rooms, funeral parlors, homeless streets, and more.’
    • ‘She removes herself to the liminal space of the hallway, a threshold to society from which she can assess her own status and avoid further assessment by others.’
    • ‘The airport fills in as a liminal zone where one's own otherness (within our ‘own’ culture, and even to oneself) becomes more visible, if not necessarily legible.’
    • ‘The more liminal nature of locations such as the racecourse and the seaside, or the anonymity of large urban areas, and the range of pleasures on offer, could open up multiple leisure identities.’
    • ‘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.’


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