in·​sub·​stan·​tial | \ˌin(t)-səb-ˈstan(t)-shəl \

Definition of insubstantial 

: not substantial: such as

a : lacking substance or material nature

b : lacking firmness or solidity : flimsy

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Other Words from insubstantial

insubstantiality \ ˌin(t)-​səb-​ˌstan(t)-​shē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē \ noun

Examples of insubstantial in a Sentence

Their contribution to the fund was insubstantial. as insubstantial as a ghost

Recent Examples on the Web

Perhaps more of a drawback, although one that often recedes as Krist’s narrative gains momentum, is what the title metaphor implies — an insubstantial and fleeting fiction. Leo Braudy, New York Times, "Los Angeles as the City of Dreams, and Nightmares," 1 June 2018 And how do post offices safely deal with such insubstantial ephemera? Sue Wunder, The Christian Science Monitor, "The payback of follow-through," 23 May 2018 The burden on the university is not insubstantial, but so is the financial benefit received from student tuition. John R. Ellement,, "Mass. high court rules colleges have legal duty to prevent students from committing suicide," 7 May 2018 Breakfast Burrito Post-ride hunger is a beautiful thing not to be wasted on insubstantial meals. The Editors, Outside Online, "Our Favorite Post-Sufferfest Food," 4 May 2018 The offer was dismissed as insubstantial by the U.S. and Mr. Liu couldn’t score a meeting with the president. Lingling Wei, WSJ, "For China, the American Team of Trade Rivals Won’t Be Easy to Please," 29 Apr. 2018 For all the pomp and skilful choreography, however, the results of the summit were insubstantial. The Economist, "Can the euphoria of the Korean summit last?," 27 Apr. 2018 Never rushed, his pacing keeps the energy up; never insubstantial in texture, the playing maintains a fizzy lightness. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "Review: The Stepchild of Cinderella Operas Finally Makes It to the Met," 13 Apr. 2018 UMass officials say the institutes are a $5 million drain on the school’s budget, which is not an insubstantial number. Adrian Walker,, "A UMass Boston institute that studies war’s effects is fighting to survive budget cuts," 10 Apr. 2018

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

The first known use of insubstantial was in 1607

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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 \

Kids Definition of insubstantial

: not large or important Her contribution was insubstantial.

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More from Merriam-Webster on insubstantial

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for insubstantial

Spanish Central: Translation of insubstantial

Nglish: Translation of insubstantial for Spanish Speakers

Comments on insubstantial

What made you want to look up insubstantial? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

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