in·​sub·​stan·​tial | \ ˌin(t)-səb-ˈstan(t)-shəl How to pronounce insubstantial (audio) \

Definition of insubstantial

: not substantial: such as
a : lacking substance or material nature
b : lacking firmness or solidity : flimsy

Other Words from insubstantial

insubstantiality \ ˌin(t)-​səb-​ˌstan(t)-​shē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce insubstantial (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for insubstantial



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Examples of insubstantial in a Sentence

Their contribution to the fund was insubstantial. as insubstantial as a ghost
Recent Examples on the Web The intellectual framework within which the movie is set is similarly insubstantial. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 25 Dec. 2021 Many of the donations are insubstantial, and one state law-enforcement agency told the reporters that the money wasn’t worth the trouble of being associated with OUR. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, 9 Dec. 2021 But as Blakemore shows in her brilliant novel, the spiritual life many of them extolled was as slant and insubstantial as Matthew Hopkins. Los Angeles Times, 23 Aug. 2021 Given today’s ubiquity of such always insubstantial but sometimes commanding pictures skittering across countless screens — phone, TV, desktop monitor, laptop, tablet — this is no insignificant feat. Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2021 Over centuries, diverse cultural meanings have taken shape in this insubstantial vapor. Rachel Polonsky, The New York Review of Books, 11 June 2020 Workers paid rent for the insubstantial company houses, school classes were evidently in English only, and families were expected to spend their company paychecks at company stores. Los Angeles Times, 31 Aug. 2021 Their performances are rooted in a mutual understanding that translates onscreen into responsiveness, gestural ease, a feeling of authentic emotion that even Deray’s stolid direction and the laughably bland, insubstantial dialogue can’t dispel. Richard Brod, The New Yorker, 23 Aug. 2021 From this ghostly Paris comes a sensitive, vague and often maddeningly insubstantial novel. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 6 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'insubstantial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of insubstantial

1607, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for insubstantial

probably from French insubstantiel, from Late Latin insubstantialis, from Latin in- + Late Latin substantialis substantial

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Time Traveler for insubstantial

Time Traveler

The first known use of insubstantial was in 1607

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Insubstantial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for insubstantial



English Language Learners Definition of insubstantial

: not large or important
: not strong or solid
: not real : not made of a real substance


in·​sub·​stan·​tial | \ ˌin-səb-ˈstan-chəl How to pronounce insubstantial (audio) \

Kids Definition of insubstantial

: not large or important Her contribution was insubstantial.

More from Merriam-Webster on insubstantial

Nglish: Translation of insubstantial for Spanish Speakers


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