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 Life in the United States is materially better than in the Thai refugee camps or in their homeland, where most Karen were subsistence farmers. Hannah Beech, New York Times, "‘We Were Bulletproof’: As Child Soldiers Grow Up, Legacy of War Lingers," 12 Oct. 2020 The state also proposed setting aside portions of the funds for subsistence and aquaculture at 3% and 1% respectively. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Post-COVID partying, therapy dogs, rising hospitalizations: News from around our 50 states," 9 Oct. 2020 In 1846 and 1847, potatoes, the subsistence crop of the cottar subtenants who composed nearly half the population on some Hebridean estates, failed almost entirely. Hugh Raffles, The New York Review of Books, "The Stones of Lewis, Portals in Time," 9 Oct. 2020 There’s also better access to subsistence activities in Mertarvik. Author: Greg Kim, Anchorage Daily News, "Former residents of erosion-threatened Newtok say they’re healthier after a year in new village," 4 Aug. 2020 Finally, the state Board of Fisheries has accepted 275 proposals to address at its as yet undetermined meetings on Prince William Sound and Southeast subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries and statewide shellfish. Anchorage Daily News, "Lower supplies of wild Pacific salmon by major producers push up prices," 6 Oct. 2020 Most of the vendors were subsistence farmers and small-time fishermen with meager harvests to sell. Smita Sharma, National Geographic, "Stolen lives: The harrowing story of two girls sold into sexual slavery," 28 Sep. 2020 Daarul, a former subsistence farmer, says he was asked to pay 120,000 Nepalese rupees ($1,011) in agency fees to take the job. Julie Zaugg, CNN, "The world's top suppliers of disposable gloves are thriving because of the pandemic. Their workers aren't," 11 Sep. 2020 Environmental advocates argue that fossil fuel production in ANWR will add to this process, damaging habitat and impacting the Indigenous people who rely on the wildlife for subsistence. Popular Science, "The Trump administration opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies—but none may bite," 26 Aug. 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

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Subsistence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 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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