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

Other Words from subsistence

subsistent \ səb-​ˈsi-​stənt How to pronounce subsistence (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 Beyond its cultural significance, subsistence fishing and hunting is how people feed their families. Will Mccarthy, Los Angeles Times, 9 Sep. 2022 The three generations of women are seen mushing their dog team, subsistence fishing along the Yukon River, caribou hunting in the expansive wilderness, and sewing hide to make clothing. Jenna Kunze, ELLE, 17 June 2022 Animals that rely on snow and sea ice, such as the ugruk—or bearded seal—are harder to find as sea ice melts, leaving subsistence hunters concerned for their livelihoods. Joey Lautrup, Time, 26 Apr. 2022 Caribou and moose hunting in parts of Northwest Alaska will be closed to nonlocal hunters in August and September of 2022 and 2023 to support local subsistence hunters and protect the declining population of the herds. Alena Naiden, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Apr. 2022 Guns are a part of Alaska’s culture and a core tool of a subsistence lifestyle. Anchorage Daily News, 7 Aug. 2022 Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for regulation of the country’s carbon offset market in response to a Bloomberg Green investigation that showed oil giant BP Plc is paying subsistence farmers a fraction of market rate. Max De Haldevang,, 30 June 2022 Zachariah Hughes covers the military, politics, drugs, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Aug. 2022 Certainly for some other country that’s struggling for subsistence then, by all means, G.D.P. growth increases welfare. David Marchesephoto Illustration By Bráulio Amado, New York Times, 17 July 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near subsistence



subsistence economy

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Subsistence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for subsistence


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

More from Merriam-Webster on subsistence

Nglish: Translation of subsistence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of subsistence for Arabic Speakers

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