sub·sis·tence | \ səb-ˈsi-stən(t)s \

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 \ 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 area is rich in fish and waterfowl and many in the Yupik Eskimo community practice a subsistence lifestyle. Washington Post, "Police: 2 stabbed at Alaska school during break-in attempt," 14 May 2018 Where the commercial fishery runs on the acquisition of fish for private profiit, the subsistence is part of an indigenous economy that abjures hoarding and celebrates the sharing of a bounty whose creatures are assigned both intelligence and souls. Richard Adams Carey, WSJ, "‘Kings of the Yukon’ Review: A Song for the Salmon," 25 May 2018 The fish are important to the tribes for subsistence and as a vital part of their culture. Kale Williams,, "Southern Oregon tribes sue feds over endangered sucker fish," 25 May 2018 Under federal law Alaska Natives can take walrus for subsistence hunting or for making art, as long as it isn't done wastefully, the filing said. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "Fourth Brevig Mission man charged with waste in killing of 14 walrus," 6 July 2018 In 2014 a complete ban was placed on all fishing for kings, subsistence included, on both sides of the border. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, "In ‘Kings of the Yukon,’ paddling 2,000 miles to witness what’s left behind when salmon runs falter," 30 June 2018 From antiquity to about 1650, the average person existed at the margin of subsistence. Michael Hicks, Indianapolis Star, "Hicks: We've got it good, and we don't even know it," 24 June 2018 With a drop in sugar prices, much of the Caribbean was in the middle of a deep economic depression in the early 1900s, with many workers struggling even to reach subsistence; families like McDonald’s relied on remittances. Caroline Lieffers, Smithsonian, "How the Panama Canal Took a Huge Toll On the Contract Workers Who Built It," 18 Apr. 2018 Meanwhile, during the last decade, the Colville Confederated Tribes of Washington state have successfully fought for recognition of ancestral subsistence rights in British Columbia, reinforcing Indigenous perseverance despite national borders. Time Staff, Time, "The 25 Moments From American History That Matter Right Now," 28 June 2018

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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Phrases Related to subsistence

subsistence level

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Last Updated

21 Sep 2018

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

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English Language Learners Definition of subsistence

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


sub·sis·tence | \ səb-ˈsis-təns \

Kids Definition of subsistence

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

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Comments on subsistence

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


occurring twice a year or every two years

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