#40. Threshold


(9 letters |2 syllables)
(scrabble score – 16)

1 |noun| the starting point for a new state or experience.
2 |noun| the smallest detectable sensation.
3 |noun| the entrance (the space in a wall) through which you enter or leave a room or building; the space that a door can close.
4 |noun| the sill of a door; a horizontal piece of wood or stone that forms the bottom of a doorway and offers support when passing through a doorway.
5 | noun | a region marking a boundary.
(Wolfram Alpha)

|noun|the plank, stone, or piece of timber that lies under a door : sill gate, door.
|noun| end, boundary; specifically : the end of a runway
|noun| the place or point of entering or beginning : outset
|noun| the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced.
|noun| a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.(Merriam-Webster)

Origin and Etymology of Threshold

Old English þrescold, þærscwold, þerxold, etc., “door-sill, point of entering,” of uncertain origin and probably much altered by folk-etymology. The first element probably is related to Old English þrescan (see thresh), either in its current sense of “thresh” or with its original sense of “tread, trample.” Second element has been much transformed in all the Germanic languages, suggesting its literal sense was lost even in ancient times. In English it probably has been altered to conform to hold. Liberman (Oxford University Press blog, Feb. 11, 2015) revives an old theory that the second element is the Proto-Germanic instrumental suffix *-thlo and the original sense of threshold was a threshing area adjacent to the living area of a house. Cognates include Old Norse þreskjoldr, Swedish tröskel, Old High German driscufli, German dialectal drischaufel. Figurative use was in Old English.”

liminal (adj.)
“of or pertaining to a threshold,” 1870, from Latin limen “threshold, cross-piece, sill” (see limit (n.)) + -al (1). Related: Liminality

Middle English thresshold, from Old English threscwald; akin to Old Norse threskjǫldr threshold, Old English threscan to thresh

First Known Use: before 12th century(?)

“The earliest known use of ‘threshold‘ in the English language is from Alfred the Great’s Old English translation of the Roman philosopher Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae. In this translation, which was written around 888, ‘threshold’ appears as ‘þeorscwold’ (that first letter is called a thorn and it was used in Old English and Middle English to indicate the sounds produced by “th” in ‘thin’ and ‘this’). The origins of this Old English word are not known, though it is believed to be related to Old English ‘threscan’ from which we get the words thresh, meaning “to separate seed from (a harvested plant) using a machine or tool” and ‘thrash,’ meaning, among other things “to beat soundly with or as if with a stick.”

Bloggers Note:

I recently discovered ‘threshold concept’ in education and was immediately taken with its implications. Threshold concepts are areas of learning within disciplines where the student traditionally has a very hard time progressing through or moving beyond because  they require a change in understanding about the concept as a whole and sometimes even a change in the learner themselves. Threshold concepts are described as:

  1. integrative
  2. transformative
  3. irreversible
  4. bounded
  5. troublesome

    These concepts, once learned cannot be unlearned and while resulting in a much deeper understanding fundamentally, they can also cause many problems for the learner including a deep unease.  


    About Justin Arn

    Part-time Bartender. Full Time Learner. Currently exploring the mystery and wonder of life while coding, reading, and hiking.
    This entry was posted in One Word Each Day, threshold, threshold experience and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

    2 Responses to #40. Threshold

    1. Fascinating! I’m going to read up on the threshold concept. Thanks!
      Have you ever heard of the “doorway effect” in which scientists have found that walking through doorways causes forgetting? It happens to me when I leave a room to get something in the next room, but when I pass a doorway, I forget what I was supposed to fetch! Your post reminded me of that particular study.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Justin Arn says:

        I’m so glad you found this! When I discovered the idea of ‘threshold learning’ and ‘threshold concept’ what first struck me was how initiatory the whole thing was, like joining a secret society. Apparently in Education it is one of those topics Educators gravitate towards, and I can see why. Thanks for mentioning the ‘doorway effect.’ I think I had heard of it in passing but upon reflection, the phenomenon is quite interesting with regards to what it implies for consciousness and liminality. I’ll take a look! Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

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