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Sublime vs. Sublimate — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 12, 2023
Sublime refers to something impressive or transcendent, while sublimate is a process where a solid turns into a gas without becoming liquid.
Sublime vs. Sublimate — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Sublime and Sublimate

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Key Differences

Sublime and Sublimate, while sharing a linguistic root, refer to vastly different concepts. The term "Sublime" often conjures images of awe-inspiring beauty, grandeur, or moral worth. When something is described as sublime, it usually means that it's of such excellence or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe. On the other hand, "Sublimate" has its most common roots in chemistry. It's a term used to describe the transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase, without passing through the intermediate liquid phase.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 12, 2023
When observing the world around us, one might find several instances where the Sublime is evident. This could be in the form of a breathtaking natural landscape, a piece of art, or even a touching act of human kindness. The term can be found in art, literature, and philosophy, signifying the highest form or degree of something. Conversely, Sublimate can be observed in specific physical phenomena. For example, the way dry ice transforms directly into carbon dioxide gas is a demonstration of sublimation.
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Oct 12, 2023
It's interesting to note that, historically, the word "Sublimate" also has a psychological context. The renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud used "sublimation" to describe a type of defense mechanism where unacceptable urges or behaviors are transformed into more acceptable ones. In contrast, "Sublime" has often been a topic of interest for philosophers, especially when pondering on aesthetics or the nature of beauty.
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Oct 12, 2023
In everyday usage, while "Sublime" might come up in conversations about experiences that deeply move or inspire, "Sublimate" would be more common in scientific discussions or in contexts related to Freudian psychology.
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Oct 12, 2023

Comparison Chart

Primary Meaning

Excellence or beauty inspiring admiration.
Transition from solid to gas without a liquid phase.
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Field of Usage

Art, literature, and philosophy.
Chemistry and psychology.
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Form

Adjective
Verb
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Nature

Subjective and emotional.
Objective and factual.
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Contextual Application

Often used to describe experiences or aesthetics.
Used to describe a specific physical phenomenon.
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Compare with Definitions

Sublime

Of great excellence or beauty, inspiring awe.
The view from the mountain peak was simply Sublime.
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Sublimate

To refine or purify a substance.
The chemist needed to Sublimate the sample for the experiment.
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Sublime

Of high moral or intellectual value.
Her Sublime act of charity moved everyone in the room.
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Sublimate

To undergo or cause to undergo the process of turning from a solid directly into a gas.
Dry ice will Sublimate at room temperature.
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Oct 12, 2023

Sublime

Ultimate or supreme.
Achieving that goal was a Sublime moment in his career.
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Sublimate

To divert an impulse into a more socially acceptable or constructive direction.
He learned to Sublimate his anger into his artwork.
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Sublime

Characterized by nobility; majestic.
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May 14, 2020

Sublimate

To modify the natural expression of an instinctual impulse, especially a sexual one, in a socially acceptable manner.
Over the years, she managed to Sublimate her traumatic experiences into her writings.
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Oct 12, 2023

Sublime

Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth.
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May 14, 2020

Sublimate

(in psychoanalytic theory) divert or modify (an instinctual impulse) into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity
Libido must be sublimated into productive work activities
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Sublime

Not to be excelled; supreme.
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Sublimate

Another term for sublime
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Sublime

Inspiring awe; impressive.
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Sublimate

A solid deposit of a substance which has sublimed
Condensation of a sublimate
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Sublime

(Archaic) Raised aloft; set high.
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Sublimate

To be transformed directly from the solid to the gaseous state or from the gaseous to the solid state without becoming a liquid.
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Sublime

(Archaic) Of lofty appearance or bearing; haughty
"not terrible, / That I should fear ... / But solemn and sublime" (John Milton).
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Sublimate

(Chemistry) To cause (a solid or gas) to sublimate.
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Sublime

Something sublime.
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Sublimate

(Psychology) In psychoanalytic theory, to divert or modify (an instinctual impulse or drive) into an activity or interest of higher social value.
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Sublime

An ultimate example.
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Sublimate

(Chemistry) A product of sublimation.
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Sublime

To render sublime.
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Sublimate

To change state from a solid to a gas without passing through the liquid state.
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Sublime

(Chemistry) To cause to sublimate.
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Sublimate

To purify or refine a substance through such a change of state.
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Sublime

To sublimate.
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Sublimate

To modify the natural expression of a sexual or primitive instinct in a socially acceptable manner; to divert the energy of such an instinct into some acceptable activity.
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Sublime

To sublimate.
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Sublimate

(archaic) To raise to a place of honor; to refine and exalt.
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Sublime

(transitive) To raise on high.
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Sublimate

(chemistry) A product obtained by sublimation.
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Sublime

(transitive) To exalt; to heighten; to improve; to purify.
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Sublimate

To bring by heat into the state of vapor, which, on cooling, returns again to the solid state; as, to sublimate sulphur or camphor.
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Sublime

(transitive) To dignify; to ennoble.
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Sublimate

To refine and exalt; to heighten; to elevate.
The precepts of Christianity are . . . so apt to cleanse and sublimate the more gross and corrupt.
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Sublime

Noble and majestic.
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Sublimate

To redirect the energy (of sexual or other biological drives) into a more socially acceptable or constructive form.
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Sublime

Impressive and awe-inspiring, yet simple.
Sublime scenery
A sublime deed
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Sublimate

A product obtained by sublimation; hence, also, a purified product so obtained.
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Sublime

(obsolete) Lifted up; high in place; exalted aloft; uplifted; lofty.
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Sublimate

Brought into a state of vapor by heat, and again condensed as a solid.
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Sublime

(obsolete) Elevated by joy; elated.
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Sublimate

The product of vaporization of a solid
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Sublime

Lofty of mien; haughty; proud.
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Sublimate

Direct energy or urges into useful activities
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Sublime

Something sublime.
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Sublimate

Make more subtle or refined
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Sublime

Lifted up; high in place; exalted aloft; uplifted; lofty.
Sublime on these a tower of steel is reared.
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Sublimate

Remove impurities from, increase the concentration of, and separate through the process of distillation;
Purify the water
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Sublime

Distinguished by lofty or noble traits; eminent; - said of persons.
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Sublimate

Change or cause to change directly from a solid into a vapor without first melting;
Sublime iodine
Some salts sublime when heated
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Sublime

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.; as, sublime scenery; a sublime deed.
Easy in words thy style, in sense sublime.
Know how sublime a thing it isTo suffer and be strong.
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Sublimate

Vaporize and then condense right back again
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Sublime

Elevated by joy; elate.
Their hearts were jocund and sublime,Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine.
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Sublimate

Made pure
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Sublime

Lofty of mien; haughty; proud.
His fair, large front and eye sublime declaredAbsolute rule.
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Sublimate

To elevate in character or quality.
The mentor helped him Sublimate his raw talent into refined skill.
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Oct 12, 2023

Sublime

That which is sublime; - with the definite article
The sublime rises from the nobleness of thoughts, the magnificence of words, or the harmonious and lively turn of the phrase.
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May 14, 2020

Sublime

That which is grand in nature or art, as distinguished from the merely beautiful.
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May 14, 2020

Sublime

To raise on high.
A soul sublimed by an idea above the region of vanity and conceit.
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May 14, 2020

Sublime

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.
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May 14, 2020

Sublime

To exalt; to heighten; to improve; to purify.
The sun . . . Which not alone the southern wit sublimes,But ripens spirits in cold, northern climes.
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Sublime

To dignify; to ennoble.
An ordinary gift can not sublime a person to a supernatural employment.
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Sublime

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.
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Sublime

Vaporize and then condense right back again
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Sublime

Change or cause to change directly from a solid into a vapor without first melting;
Sublime iodine
Some salts sublime when heated
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May 14, 2020

Sublime

Inspiring awe;
Well-meaning ineptitude that rises to empyreal absurdity
Empyrean aplomb
The sublime beauty of the night
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Sublime

Worthy of adoration or reverence
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Sublime

Lifted up or set high;
Their hearts were jocund and sublime
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Sublime

Elevating the mind or spirit.
The music had a Sublime quality that brought peace to listeners.
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Common Curiosities

Is the "Sublime" a subjective term?

Yes, what one person finds "Sublime", another might not. It often involves personal emotion or experience.
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Oct 12, 2023

Does "Sublimate" only refer to a scientific process?

No, "Sublimate" can also refer to the Freudian concept of channeling impulses into socially acceptable actions.
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Oct 12, 2023

Can "Sublime" be used as a verb?

While "Sublime" is primarily an adjective, in rare contexts it can be used as a verb meaning to elevate in character or quality.
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What's a common example of sublimation in daily life?

Dry ice turning directly into gas is a classic example of sublimation.
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Can "Sublimate" be used in a culinary context?

Rarely. However, chefs might use "Sublime" to describe flavors or presentations that are exceptionally good.
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Oct 12, 2023

Can a piece of music be described as "Sublime"?

Absolutely! If a piece of music evokes profound emotion or is of exceptional beauty, it can be termed "Sublime".
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Oct 12, 2023

Are the terms "Sublime" and "Sublimate" frequently confused due to their similarities?

While they share linguistic roots and sound similar, their distinct meanings usually prevent confusion in appropriate contexts.
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Is "Sublimate" a process observed only in specific conditions?

Generally, yes. Sublimation typically requires certain conditions, often involving temperature and pressure, for a solid to turn directly into a gas.
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Does "Sublimate" have applications outside of chemistry?

Yes, "Sublimate" is used in psychology, referring to the transformation of unacceptable impulses into socially acceptable behaviors.
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Can "Sublime" also mean "impressive"?

Yes, something that is described as "Sublime" is often seen as impressive due to its beauty or grandeur.
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Does art often strive to achieve the "Sublime"?

Many artists aim to evoke the feeling of the "Sublime" in their audience, capturing beauty, grandeur, or profound emotion.
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Oct 12, 2023

Is it possible for emotions or desires to "Sublimate"?

In psychoanalytic theory, yes. "Sublimation" refers to the redirection of socially unacceptable desires into acceptable channels or actions.
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Oct 12, 2023

How are "Sublime" and "Sublimate" related linguistically?

Both words have Latin roots; "Sublime" from "sublimis" (elevated) and "Sublimate" from "sublimare" (to raise, elevate).
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Oct 12, 2023

Can nature be described as "Sublime"?

Certainly. Many people describe vast or awe-inspiring natural landscapes, such as mountain ranges or waterfalls, as "Sublime".
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Oct 12, 2023

How is "Sublimate" used in the context of personal development?

In personal development, "Sublimate" might refer to channeling negative or unproductive energies into constructive or beneficial pursuits.
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Oct 12, 2023

In which scientific fields might one encounter the term "Sublimate"?

Aside from chemistry, "Sublimate" might be encountered in physics, particularly when discussing phase transitions.
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Oct 12, 2023

Would a philosopher and a chemist use the word "Sublime" in the same way?

Likely not. While a philosopher might discuss the "Sublime" in terms of beauty or ethics, a chemist would likely be referring to the process of sublimation.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 12, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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