sub·​sis·​tence | \ səb-ˈsi-stən(t)s How to pronounce subsistence (audio) \

Definition of subsistence

1a(1) : real being : existence
(2) : the condition of remaining in existence : continuation, persistence
b : an essential characteristic quality of something that exists
c : the character possessed by whatever is logically conceivable
2 : means of subsisting: such as
a : the minimum (as of food and shelter) necessary to support life
b : a source or means of obtaining the necessities of life

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Other Words from subsistence

subsistent \ səb-​ˈsi-​stənt How to pronounce subsistent (audio) \ adjective

Examples of subsistence in a Sentence

They depended on hunting and fishing for subsistence. Farming is their means of subsistence.
Recent Examples on the Web The gold and copper mine would transform an area that is now dominated by a $1.4 billion commercial, recreational and subsistence salmon fishery. Steven Mufson, Washington Post, "President’s son Donald Jr. on Twitter calls for blocking Alaska mine in sensitive fishing area," 4 Aug. 2020 The idea is that these people should work in order to work, with something like subsistence as a side benefit. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, "Economics & Humanity," 11 June 2020 But these plants mean more than just subsistence to Indigenous people. Debra Utacia Krol, The Arizona Republic, "Gold mine along Hassayampa River may imperil tribal cultural, riparian sites," 7 July 2020 One of the park’s purposes is to preserve the land and wildlife for Alaska Native subsistence use. Jenna Schnuer, National Geographic, "See the breathtaking beauty of America’s least visited national park," 10 June 2020 Saniniu Laizer, a subsistence miner from the country’s Manyara region, discovered the two largest tanzanite gems in history. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "'Big party tomorrow': Miner becomes instant millionaire after discovering record-breaking gems," 25 June 2020 The disaster funds will assist fishing communities affected by the cod crash by going to fishermen, subsistence users, shore-side businesses and infrastructure. Anchorage Daily News, "Pandemic slows distribution of relief funds for 2018 Gulf of Alaska cod crash," 23 June 2020 This is most obvious regarding tens of millions of migrant workers who were left without subsistence when Mr Modi imposed an instant and total nationwide lockdown on March 25th. The Economist, "Banyan India’s bureaucrats are fighting covid-19 with red tape," 11 June 2020 Many Africans will move from subsistence farms to commercial ones, or from living alongside a game reserve to guiding tourists around one. The Economist, "Production lions How manufacturing might take off in Africa," 13 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subsistence.' 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 subsistence

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for subsistence

Middle English, from Late Latin subsistentia, from subsistent-, subsistens, present participle of subsistere

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Time Traveler for subsistence

Time Traveler

The first known use of subsistence was in the 15th century

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Statistics for subsistence

Last Updated

11 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Subsistence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for subsistence


How to pronounce subsistence (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of subsistence

: the amount of food, money, etc., that is needed to stay alive


sub·​sis·​tence | \ səb-ˈsis-təns How to pronounce subsistence (audio) \

Kids Definition of subsistence

: the smallest amount (as of food and clothing) necessary to support life

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