sub·stance | \ ˈsəb-stən(t)s \

Definition of substance 

1a : essential nature : essence

b : a fundamental or characteristic part or quality

c Christian Science : god sense 1b

2a : ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change

b : practical importance : meaning, usefulness the … bill—which will be without substance in the sense that it will authorize nothing more than a set of ideas —Richard Reeves

3a : physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence

b : matter of particular or definite chemical constitution

c : something (such as drugs or alcoholic beverages) deemed harmful and usually subject to legal restriction possession of a controlled substance substance abuse

4 : material possessions : property a family of substance

in substance

: in respect to essentials : fundamentally

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Other words from substance

substanceless \ˈsəb-stən(t)s-ləs \ adjective

Examples of substance in a Sentence

The pancreas secretes a substance called insulin. The floor was covered with a white, powdery substance that turned out to be flour. heroin and other illegal substances He had a history of substance abuse. When has he ever said anything of substance? The results of the study give substance to their theory. the substance of my argument
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Recent Examples on the Web

Now months later, it is believed two British nationals came in contact with this horrible substance and one of them has already died. Allison Barrie, Fox News, "Innovative project harnesses Legos and smartphones in the fight against invisible, deadly weapons," 13 July 2018 During a traffic stop, officers noticed a plastic bag with a white substance inside the center console after Neally opened it to retrieve his insurance information, police said. Elizabeth Owens-schiele,, "Buffalo Grove police: Man faces charges after traffic stop turns up cocaine, marijuana," 13 July 2018 Weeks later, with the substitute substance in place, the package was forwarded to San Ysidro, where DEA and other federal agents waited to see who would pick up the shipment. Alex Riggins,, "Former San Diego-area Border Patrol agent admits to drug charge in federal court," 12 July 2018 The money will be used for programs that implement how people’s traumatic experiences contribute to their substance abuse issues. Andrea K. Mcdaniels,, "CVS to place opioid disposal containers in its stores," 12 July 2018 Some overdoses happen because a non-opioid, such as cocaine, is laced with much stronger substances such as fentanyl. Brittany Shoot, Fortune, "Fentanyl Is Causing Almost Half of All Overdose Deaths, Research Shows," 2 July 2018 Police found another straw with a white powder substance in plain view on the desk. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Woman wanted on drug charges set up apartment inside vacant Cudahy building, police say," 20 June 2018 Janette Hicks told an Anchorage Daily News reporter on the scene that her husband, Nathaniel Hicks, had fallen asleep on the sidewalk and had woken up with the white substance all over him. Laurel Andrews, Anchorage Daily News, "Hazmat team investigates white powder left near Anchorage homeless shelter," 8 June 2018 The Emmett Fire Department called on hazardous materials specialists with the Idaho National Guard for help in assessing an unknown substance that sickened two people Thursday. Katy Moeller, idahostatesman, "National Guard hazmat experts tapped after 2 in Emmett sickened by unknown substance | Idaho Statesman," 18 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'substance.' 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 substance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for substance

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin substantia, from substant-, substans, present participle of substare to stand under, from sub- + stare to stand — more at stand

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Statistics for substance

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for substance

The first known use of substance was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for substance



English Language Learners Definition of substance

: a material of a particular kind

: a drug that is considered harmful and whose use is controlled by law or made illegal

: the quality of being meaningful, useful, or important


sub·stance | \ ˈsəb-stəns \

Kids Definition of substance

1 : material of a certain kind an oily substance

2 : the most basic or important part or quality The books differ in both style and substance.

3 : material belongings : wealth a person of substance


sub·stance | \ ˈsəb-stən(t)s \

Medical Definition of substance 

1 : physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence the substance of nerve tissue

2 : matter of particular or definite chemical constitution

3 : something (as alcohol, methamphetamine, or marijuana) deemed harmful and usually subject to legal restriction heroin is a controlled substance substance abuse

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Legal Definition of substance 

1 : substantive law was a question of substance and not process — compare procedure

2 : something (as language) essential especially to establishing a valid right, claim, or charge a title defective in form, not substance

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Comments on substance

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