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 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 The researchers bought 10 tusks from Inuit subsistence hunters in northwestern Greenland and found that the objects contained nearly 50 years' worth of information. Todd Nelson, Star Tribune, 12 July 2021 The researchers bought 10 tusks from Inuit subsistence hunters in northwestern Greenland and found that the objects contained nearly 50 years' worth of information. Susan Cosier, Scientific American, 21 June 2021 Conservation and tribal groups who are suing to stop development in the refuge amid concerns about impacts to imperiled polar bears, caribou and Native subsistence hunters supported the move. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, 1 June 2021 His calculations predicted that such pollution would disrupt monsoon seasons now impacting millions of subsistence farmers in his native country of India. Joshua Emerson Smith, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 June 2021 To this day, many people still live within the park boundaries, on homesteads and Native allotments, carrying out a more traditional way of life via subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering. Emily Pennington, Outside Online, 16 June 2021 He was raised on a subsistence farm in Wakulla County in the Florida panhandle, corralling hens and harvesting pole beans, black-eyed peas, okra and corn. New York Times, 14 June 2021 Tribal members haven’t been able to fish C’waam and Koptu for subsistence in nearly half a century due to the collapse of their fishery, and tribal members feel the United States has allowed that to happen. oregonlive, 19 May 2021 The upcoming round of fish board meetings focuses on management of subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries at Prince William Sound, Southeast and Yakutat, as well as statewide shellfish issues and hatcheries. Anchorage Daily News, 27 Oct. 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

19 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Subsistence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for subsistence



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

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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