The Meaning of Sublime: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of sublime? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word sublime, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word sublime mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge English Language Dictionary, the word sublime (pronounced səˈblaɪm) is an adjective that describes something that is extremely good, enjoyable, or beautiful. This is an extremely lofty view of something and describes something that is very great and could not be improved. The word sublime can also be used as a noun to refer to something that is sublime. Many things could be referred to as sublime – if someone is very pretty, they might be said to have sublime beauty. If someone sees an awe-inspiring landscape, it might be said to have sublime scenery. The word sublime is used when something is the perfect example of something great. 

The word sublime also exists in many other different languages. You may notice that some of these words look similarly or sound the same to the word sublime. These cognates are formed when two words are of a similar or the same origin. For example, many different languages derive from Latin and may have words that look or sound similarly or the same. This list of translations for the word sublime is provided by Word Sense.

  • Spanish: sublime‎
  • German: hehr‎, erhaben‎, nobel‎, sublim‎
  • Macedonian: возвишен‎
  • Armenian: վեհ‎
  • Roman: ùzvīšen‎ (masc.)
  • Finnish: ylevä‎, ylhäinen‎
  • Japanese: 崇高‎ (すうこう, sūkō), 高邁‎ (こうまい, kōmai)
  • Polish: wzniosły‎
  • Catalan: sublim‎
  • French: sublime‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 崇高‎ (chónggāo)
  • Danish: sublim‎
  • Portuguese: sublime‎
  • Czech: vznešený‎
  • Russian: возвы́шенный‎, вели́чественный‎
  • Esperanto: nobla‎, majesta‎
  • Korean: 숭고한‎
  • Hungarian: nemes‎, előkelő‎
  • Cyrillic: у̀звӣшен‎ (masc.)
  • Italian: sublime‎

What is the origin of the word sublime?

According to Etymonline, the word sublime has been used since the 1580s to describe expressing lofty ideas. This comes from the French sublime which came to be in the 15th century. It could also be that the English word sublime came directly from the Latin sublimis, meaning uplifted or lofty. This could originally refer to sloping up to a lintel. This comes from the prefix sub meaning up to, and the root limen, which means lintel or threshold. This is also where we get the word limit. The use of sublime as a noun has been common since the 1670s. Related words to sublime include sublimation, sublimate, subliminal, sublimed, sublimer, subliming, and sublimity.

How can the word sublime be used in a sentence?

The word sublime can be used in many different instances to describe something that is extremely good or great. In this first example, Sam has just returned from her vacation and is talking to her coworker Stacia about it.

Stacia: Sam! Welcome home! How was your trip to New York?

Sam: Absolutely sublime. I never wanted to come back – not that I don’t love you guys!

Stacia: I totally get it. I’m so happy you had a great trip. You’ll have to tell me all about it at lunch.

Sam: Absolutely. Right now, I have a ton of work to catch up on!

Here, Sam uses the term sublime to refer to her vacation. Her vacation was perfect and amazing, and therefore she referred to it as sublime. In this next example, Sam is out to dinner with her partner Tara. 

Sam: How’s the lamb? That looks amazing.

Tara: Oh my God, it’s sublime. It’s falling off the bone. I have to learn how to cook like this.

Sam: You’re already a sublime cook, trust me. You make the best eggplant parmesan I’ve ever had.

Here, Tara uses the word sublime to refer to the perfectly-cooked meal that she is eating at the restaurant. Then, Sam uses the word sublime to refer to Tara’s cooking. This is seen as a high compliment for both the dish that Tara is eating as well as Tara’s own cooking.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word sublime?

There are many different words and phrases that one can use in place of the word sublime. These are known as synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same or a similar definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful English grammatical device to know because they can help people to avoid repeating themselves while also expanding a person’s vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word sublime is provided by Thesaurus.

  • resplendent
  • splendiferous
  • too much
  • divine
  • superb
  • the most
  • gorgeous
  • transcendent
  • ideal
  • holy
  • grand
  • transcendental
  • lofty
  • exalted
  • eminent
  • high
  • abstract
  • glorious
  • imposing
  • heavenly
  • outrageous
  • super
  • august
  • elevated
  • stately
  • dynamite
  • magnificent
  • majestic
  • sacred
  • spiritual
  • great
  • proud
  • noble
  • splendorous

There are also many words and phrases that have the opposite meaning of the word sublime. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are also a useful English grammar device to know because they can help expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word sublime is also provided by Thesaurus

  • blah
  • stinking
  • poor
  • cruddy
  • bad news
  • crappy
  • synthetic
  • bad
  • diddly
  • poor
  • not good
  • substandard
  • the pits
  • rough
  • raunchy
  • deficient
  • erroneous
  • atrocious
  • awful
  • unsatisfactory
  • dissatisfactory
  • grody
  • icky
  • bottom out
  • crummy
  • lousy
  • gross
  • bummer
  • inferior
  • dreadful
  • cheesy
  • amiss
  • downer
  • defective
  • careless
  • faulty
  • imperfect
  • off
  • cheap
  • fallacious
  • sad
  • incorrect
  • beastly
  • godawful
  • garbage
  • junky
  • slipshod
  • unacceptable
  • inadequate
  • grungy
  • abominable

Overall, the word sublime is an adjective that can be used to describe something that is extremely good or beautiful. If something is called sublime, this is a big compliment. The word sublime can also be used as a noun to describe something that is sublime. The word sublime is Latin in origin.