Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Characterized by nobility; majestic.
  • adjective Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth.
  • adjective Not to be excelled; supreme.
  • adjective Inspiring awe; impressive.
  • adjective Archaic Raised aloft; set high.
  • adjective Archaic Of lofty appearance or bearing; haughty.
  • noun Something sublime.
  • noun An ultimate example.
  • intransitive verb To render sublime.
  • intransitive verb Chemistry To cause to sublimate.
  • intransitive verb To sublimate.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • High in place; uplifted; elevated; exalted; lofty.
  • High in excellence; elevated by nature; exalted above men in general by lofty or noble traits; eminent: said of persons.
  • Striking the mind with a sense of grandeur or power, physical or moral; calculated to awaken awe, veneration, exalted or heroic feeling, and the like; lofty; grand; noble: noting a natural object or scenery, an action or conduct, a discourse, a work of man's hands, a spectacle, etc.: as, sublime scenery; sublime heroism.
  • Of lofty mien; elevated in manner, expression, or appearance.
  • In anatomy, superficial; not deep-seated: opposed to profound: as, the sublime flexor of the fingers (the flexor sublimis, a muscle).
  • Synonyms and Grand, Lofty, Sublime, majestic, stately. Grand founds its meanings on the idea of great size, lofty and sublime on that of height. Natural objects may be sublime without physical height, if vastness and great impressiveness are present. In the moral field the sublime is that which is so high above ordinary human achievements as to give the impression of astonishment blended with awe, as the leap of Curtius into the chasm, or the death of the martyr Stephen. In moral things the grand suggests both vastness and elevation. Lofty may imply pride, but in this connection it notes only a lower degree of the sublime, sublime being the strongest word in the language for ideas of its class.
  • noun That which is sublime: commonly with the definite article.
  • noun The grand, impressive, and awe-inspiring in the works of nature or art, as distinguished from the beautiful: occasionally with the indefinite article, to express a particular character of sublimity.
  • noun That which has been elevated and sublimated to its extreme limit; a noble and exalted ideal.
  • To raise on high.
  • To sublimate.
  • To elevate; refine; purify; etherealize.
  • To be affected by sublimation; be brought or changed into a state of vapor by heat, and then condensed by cold, as camphor or sulphur.
  • To become exalted as by sublimation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Lifted up; high in place; exalted aloft; uplifted; lofty.
  • adjective Distinguished by lofty or noble traits; eminent; -- said of persons.
  • adjective Awakening or expressing the emotion of awe, adoration, veneration, heroic resolve, etc.; dignified; grand; solemn; stately; -- said of an impressive object in nature, of an action, of a discourse, of a work of art, of a spectacle, etc..
  • adjective Poetic Elevated by joy; elate.
  • adjective Poetic Lofty of mien; haughty; proud.
  • noun A grand or lofty style in speaking or writing; a style that expresses lofty conceptions.
  • noun That which is grand in nature or art, as distinguished from the merely beautiful.
  • intransitive verb (Chem.) To pass off in vapor, with immediate condensation; specifically, to evaporate or volatilize from the solid state without apparent melting; -- said of those substances, like arsenic, benzoic acid, etc., which do not exhibit a liquid form on heating, except under increased pressure.
  • transitive verb Archaic To raise on high.
  • transitive verb (Chem.) To subject to the process of sublimation; to heat, volatilize, and condense in crystals or powder; to distill off, and condense in solid form; hence, also, to purify.
  • transitive verb To exalt; to heighten; to improve; to purify.
  • transitive verb To dignify; to ennoble.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Noble and majestic.
  • adjective Impressive and awe-inspiring.
  • noun something sublime
  • verb chemistry, physics To sublimate.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective inspiring awe
  • adjective worthy of adoration or reverence
  • adjective lifted up or set high
  • verb vaporize and then condense right back again
  • adjective of high moral or intellectual value; elevated in nature or style
  • verb change or cause to change directly from a solid into a vapor without first melting

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[French, from Old French, sublimated, from Latin sublīmis, uplifted.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle French sublime, from Latin sublīmis ("high"), from sub- ("up to", "upwards") + uncertain, often identified with Latin līmis, ablative singular of līmus ("oblique") or līmen ("threshold", "entrance", "lintel")

Examples

  • Besides this distinction, they have what they call the sublime, that is, a style proper for poetry, and which is the exact scripture style.

    Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M--y W--y M--e

  • In such asyndeta and repetitions, the sublime is always on the attack.

    On the Sublime

  • Hardly surpising, since the sublime is all about import.

    Archive 2010-03-01

  • DVD FOCUS 'Diary of a Country Priest' 1951 The word 'sublime' has often been used to describe this Robert Bresson masterpiece, a slow-paced film of great purity that portrays the pain and occasional joy of the religious life.

    'Of Gods': Divine Beauty, Terror, Faith

  • In such asyndeta and repetitions, the sublime is always on the attack.

    Archive 2010-03-01

  • Hardly surpising, since the sublime is all about import.

    On the Sublime

  • The sublime is a concept that was first imagined in the first century AD by Longinus (but not really rediscovered until the sixteenth century), for whom the sublime was about greatness, loftiness, and elevation, inspiring awe and veneration.

    Wunderkammern vs. Cabinets of Curiosity

  • The sublime is a concept that was first imagined in the first century AD by Longinus (but not really rediscovered until the sixteenth century), for whom the sublime was about greatness, loftiness, and elevation, inspiring awe and veneration.

    Archive 2008-01-01

  • "Not by the exceptional," says Maeterlinck, "shall the last word ever be spoken; and, indeed, what we call the sublime should be only a clearer, profounder insight into all that is perfectly normal."

    The Life Radiant

  • QUOTATION: That passage is what I call the sublime dashed to pieces by cutting too close with the fiery four-in-hand round the corner of nonsense.

    Quotations

Comments

New comments are temporarily disabled while we update our database.

  • not, as one might incline, a verdant citrus fruit of substandard quality

    October 23, 2007

  • HA HA HA!! Good one! Makes me like this word better, somehow...

    October 23, 2007

  • Oh yes, I needed to read this just now. I really did. Now I can proofread with a smile on my face!

    August 3, 2008

  • I just looked up the etymology of this, after years of idly wondering (away from a computer or dictionary) about the connection between the adjective and the physical process. It turns out that the word is from the Latin for "uplifted" or "elevated". Matter being sublimated goes directly from a solid to a gas, causing it to go from the ground to the air. A sublime performance could thus be a performance which uplifts the audience, or simply a performance at an elevated level. Compare this with the honorific "High-ness".

    November 2, 2008

  • There's an awfully good book by a Greek fellow named Longinus (actually, scholars are unsure whether his name was Longinus, Dionysus, or Dionysus Longinus, but they usually go with the first) called On the Sublime, sometimes translated badly as On Great Writing. Very good thoughts about what sets the sublime apart from the mere extremely beautiful and interesting.

    March 20, 2009

  • Many people, including myself, have attributed a connotation of "relaxation," "smoothness," or "gentleness" to the word "sublime." This seems to be a misapprehension, yet 5 out of 5 people I randomly questioned seem to have this impression. I wonder why?

    August 11, 2009

  • Sublime Synonyms

    A poem by the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

    Grand founds its meanings on the idea of great size,

    lofty and sublime on that of height.

    Natural objects may be sublime without physical height,

    if vastness and great impressiveness are present.

    In the moral field the sublime is that which is so high above

    ordinary human achievements as to give the

    impression of astonishment blended with awe,

    as the leap of Curtius into the chasm,

    or the death of the martyr Stephen.

    In moral things the grand suggests both vastness

    and elevation. Lofty may imply pride, but in this connection

    it notes only a lower degree of the sublime,

    sublime being the strongest word in the

    language for ideas of its class.

    May 18, 2012

  • Outstanding! Thank you, Ruzuzu, for this.

    *feeling a little sad, and a little curmudgeonly about the fact that modern dictionaries don't make references like "the leap of Curtius into the chasm, or the death of the martyr Stephen". Today it's all about quantifiable information with little thought to knowledge and none to wisdom.*

    May 19, 2012

  • Thanks, Rolig. If it weren't for Wordnik, I doubt I'd have ever met the Century Dictionary--and so I'm grateful.

    May 20, 2012