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[suhb-lim-uh-nl] /sʌbˈlɪm ə nl/
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 forms
subliminally, adverb
nonsubliminal, adjective
nonsubliminally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for subliminally
  • What guests get, and by all accounts are subliminally attracted to, is an environment where nothing is left to chance.
  • And another rather more subliminally but still legibly on the top shelf.
  • For some students, the screen also flashed an additional set of words so briefly that they could only be detected subliminally.
  • Comparison with existing parental attachment measures and a subliminally primed lexical decision task was also conducted.
  • The diagonal marking provided by these devices subliminally directs motorists into the traffic space.
British Dictionary definitions for subliminally


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 Forms
subliminally, adverb
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for subliminally



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
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subliminally in Medicine

subliminal sub·lim·i·nal (sŭb-lĭm'ə-nəl)

  1. Below the threshold of conscious perception. Used of stimuli.

  2. Inadequate to produce conscious awareness but able to evoke a response.

sub·lim'i·nal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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