A limiter is a dynamics processor very similar to a compressor (see inSync WFTD 10/13). In fact, many compressors are capable of acting as limiters when set up properly. The primary difference is the ratio used in reducing gain. In a limiter, this ratio is set up to be as close to infinity:1 as possible (no matter how much the input signal changes, the output level should remain pretty much constant). The idea is that a limiter establishes a maximum gain setting, and prevents signals from getting any louder than that setting.
Like compressors, limiters are used for a variety of applications. A few: Maximizing signal levels while preventing distortion when using digital recorders, preventing overload in a signal chain, setting a maximum volume level to protect users of in-ear monitors, protecting speakers and amplifiers from clipping, and so on. Any time you want to establish a maximum gain setting and prevent signals from passing it, a limiter is your tool of choice!