Printable Version
Pronunciation: sê-blaim Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To change something from a solid state to vapor or vice versa, usually in order to purify it. 2. To elevate or lift to a higher plane; to raise upward, as the sun might sublime the morning dew.

Notes: Today's word is more often used as an adjective, but it is, in fact, one of many words in the English vocabulary that can serve as (1) a verb, (2) an adjective meaning "elevated, exalted, uplifted", and (3) a noun meaning "things elevated, exalted, uplifted", as in the phrase "from the sublime to the ridiculous".

In Play: In chemistry, substances are sublimed to create compounds or remove impurities: "Ammonium chloride may be obtained by subliming a mixture of sulphate of ammonium with common salt." Aside from chemistry, we can find places where both senses of today's word fit our own lives: "Viveca sublimes the burdens of her personal life into care for others." And, of course, we can but hope that our Good Words sublime the speech of all our readers to even loftier heights.

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Medieval Latin sublimare "to refine, purify, sublime" which devolved from Latin sublimare "to lift up, raise, soar". Sublimare contains sublime "on high, aloft", the adverb of sublimis "lofty, raised, uplifted". Sublimis is a combination of sub "under, up to" + limes, limit- "boundary, frontier". The root here, limes "limit", is the origin of English limit. Since Proto-Indo-European [t] becamse [th] in Germanic languages it became lithus "limb" in Old English, whence the sense of bending which accompanied this word on down to its form in present-day English: lithe. (We thank David Hegge, who sublimed our series a little more by contributing today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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