sub·​stance | \ ˈsəb-stən(t)s How to pronounce substance (audio) \

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 How to pronounce substanceless (audio) \ 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 This program has a similar structure and provides an opportunity to get feedback and increase motivation for the teen to look at their substance use, vaping, or drinking., "Community News For The Hebron Edition," 8 Nov. 2019 Senator Klobuchar released a $100 billion plan to combat substance use disorders and prioritize mental health, including expanding access to treatment, launching new suicide prevention initiatives, and enforcing mental health parity laws. USA TODAY, "2020 election: Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar shares her views on current issues," 7 Nov. 2019 Why can’t Melania Trump learn about BMC’s substance use disorder programs and promote its methods from a safe distance? Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu, STAT, "When it comes to health care, nothing is nonpartisan. Melania Trump’s visit to a Boston hospital harms patients and providers," 6 Nov. 2019 The White House said the first lady would receive a briefing on other programs aimed to assist pregnant women with substance use disorder and their babies., "Some 250 people who work at Boston Medical Center are protesting a scheduled visit Wednesday by first lady Melania Trump to a hospital program that helps babies who were exposed to drugs in the womb, according to opponents of Trump’s appearance.," 6 Nov. 2019 In the first book, Manning wrote candidly about her experiences with mental illness and substance use disorder. Rachel K. Hindery,, "Bravely honest: former River Forest school chief shares personal struggles in book, visit," 28 Oct. 2019 Participating officers hear from those currently struggling with mental illness while also learning more about mental illness, substance use, Alzheimer's and traumatic brain injuries during the course of the week., "Police shootings in Arizona," 22 Oct. 2019 So is the glaring lack of affordable, accessible, good treatment and support for substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Nina Bahadur, SELF, "9 Organizations Working to Save Black Mothers," 22 Oct. 2019 Nearly 4,000 patients were identified as having some kind of substance use disorder over the first four months of the program. Peter Jamison, Washington Post, "ER outreach for opioid users works in many cities. In D.C., it’s off to a slow start.," 21 Oct. 2019

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

12 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for substance

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

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More Definitions for substance


How to pronounce substance (audio)

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 How to pronounce substance (audio) \

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 How to pronounce substance (audio) \

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

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


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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