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noun sub·stan·tive \ˈsəb-stən-tiv\

Definition of substantive

  1. :  noun; broadly :  a word or word group functioning syntactically as a noun

sub·stan·tiv·ize play \-ti-ˌvīz\ transitive verb

Origin of substantive

Middle English substantif, from Anglo-French sustentif, from sustentif, adjective, having or expressing substance, from Late Latin substantivus, from Latin substantia

First Known Use: 14th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms



adjective sub·stan·tive \ˈsəb-stən-tiv; 2c & 3 also səb-ˈstan-tiv\

Simple Definition of substantive

  • : important, real, or meaningful

  • : supported by facts or logic

Full Definition of substantive

  1. 1 :  being a totally independent entity

  2. 2a :  real rather than apparent :  firm <need substantive evidence to prove her guilt>; also :  permanent, enduringb :  belonging to the substance of a thing :  essentialc :  expressing existence <the substantive verb is the verb to be>d :  requiring or involving no mordant <a substantive dyeing process>

  3. 3a :  having the nature or function of a noun <a substantive phrase> b :  relating to or having the character of a noun or pronominal term in logic

  4. 4 :  considerable in amount or numbers :  substantial <made substantive progress>

  5. 5 :  creating and defining rights and duties <substantive law> — compare procedural

  6. 6 :  having substance :  involving matters of major or practical importance to all concerned <substantive discussions among world leaders>

sub·stan·tive·ly adverb
sub·stan·tive·ness noun

Examples of substantive

  1. “This was not a drive-by P.R. stunt, and I actually thought it might be,” said Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee. “It was a substantive, in-depth discussion with our conference, and he's very effective.” —Jackie Calmes & Carl Hulse, New York Times, 27 Jan. 2009

  2. The first substantive issue that the Supreme Court considered in its Brown opinion was whether, as originally understood, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited racial segregation in public schooling. The justices concluded that the historical record was inconclusive. —Randall Kennedy, New Republic, 5 & 12 July 2004

  3. The common critique of art's pleasures and entertainments—that they are trivial, devoid of substantive value, and degrading of art's genuine worth—rests on ignoring this diversity by making two false assumptions: first, that there is basically one kind of aesthetic pleasure in art's entertainment and, secondly, that this pleasure is always a shallow and trivial one, which distracts us from interest in art's real meaning and truth. —Richard Shusterman, Let's Entertain: Life's Guilty Pleasures, 2000

  4. These changes are more symbolic than substantive.

  5. No substantive changes were made to the document.

  6. There is no substantive reason to change the law.

Origin of substantive

Middle English, from Anglo-French sustentif (see 1substantive)

First Known Use: 14th century

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February 13, 2016

a trying or distressing experience

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