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

Kwethluk is a largely Yupik community with more than 700 residents who live a subsistence lifestyle east of Bethel on the Kwethluk River. USA TODAY, "Rare elephant calf, two-headed rattlesnake, another quake off Oregon: News from around our 50 states," 6 Sep. 2019 The Alaska Board of Fisheries includes seven members who set policy for Alaska’s subsistence, commercial, sport, guided sport and personal use fisheries, and management is based on their decisions. Anchorage Daily News, "Bristol Bay boot camp aims to jump-start businesses through the region," 20 Aug. 2019 The wildlife deaths are hitting close to home for many Alaskans, a state in which commercial fishing and hunting are a source of livelihood for many, and indigenous communities practice subsistence hunting. Matthew Cappucci And Andrew Freedman,, "More freak weather comes to Alaska, which has had an unprecedented summer," 19 Aug. 2019 The animal was one of three whales killed during subsistence hunting off the shore of Greenland in the mid 1980s, Science News reported. Fox News, "Scientists reveal skull of beluga-narwhal hybrid through DNA analysis," 21 June 2019 The one for habitat reports to deputy commissioner Ben Mulligan and the subsistence section reports directly to me. Anchorage Daily News, "Breaking down the Alaska budget’s impact on commercial fisheries," 3 Sep. 2019 Indigenous and traditional subsistence communities regularly report physical violence in confrontations resulting from incursions onto their land. Time, "The Real Reason the Amazon Is On Fire," 26 Aug. 2019 Coffee could produce 10 times more income than maize or other subsistence crops grown by local farmers, said Jordan. Washington Post, "Coffee growers help reforest Mozambique’s Mount Gorongosa," 25 Aug. 2019 In the Inupiat village of Wales on the Seward Peninsula, residents said the lack of sea ice has disrupted their subsistence way of life. Geof Koss, Scientific American, "Alaska Reels During Summer of Fire, Heat and Floods," 21 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for subsistence

Last Updated

21 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for subsistence

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

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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

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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).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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