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

Other Words from substance

substanceless \ ˈsəb-​stən(t)s-​ləs How to pronounce substance (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 Puccio is a registered nurse and co-founder of the Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction, an organization working to improve the lives of pregnant people and parents with substance use disorders. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Jan. 2022 And in 2020, the Food and Drug Administration approved a transcranial magnetic stimulation device to help patients quit smoking, a milestone for substance use disorders. Isabella Cueto, STAT, 14 Jan. 2022 After enduring several suspensions for substance abuse issues throughout his career, Gordon is back with the Chiefs. Matt Young, Chron, 12 Jan. 2022 Sorey, who lost custody of Harmony in 2018 partly because of substance abuse issues, has said Adam and Kayla Montgomery blocked her from contacting her daughter beginning in 2019. Washington Post, 9 Jan. 2022 Dr Sally Pezaro is an award-winning midwife, fellow of the Royal College of Midwives and recently published a groundbreaking study into substance misuse in midwifery. Ellie Broughton,, 3 Jan. 2022 These centers also provide resources for health and social services, including treatment for substance use disorders. Laura Weiss, The New Republic, 17 Dec. 2021 The company acknowledged that it was being used by people who wanted to buy drugs, as well as those struggling with substance abuse issues. Zoe Schiffer, NBC News, 8 Dec. 2021 Delix hopes that Delix-7 will work to treat a range of substance abuse disorders, including stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. Will Yakowicz, Forbes, 7 Dec. 2021

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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Time Traveler for substance

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near substance



substance abuse

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Statistics for substance

Last Updated

18 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Substance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

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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 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



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

More from Merriam-Webster on substance

Nglish: Translation of substance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of substance for Arabic Speakers


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