1590s, "raise to a high place," back-formation from sublimation or else from Medieval Latin sublimatus, past participle of sublimare "to lift up." The word was used in English from 1560s as a past-participle adjective meaning "purified, refined by sublimation." Chemical/alchemical sense of "heat a solid into vapor and allow it to cool again" as a way of extracting a pure substance from dross is from c. 1600. Related: Sublimated; sublimating. As a noun from 1620s.