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 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 Suicides, substance abuse and unemployment are up as people have been forced to stay home for weeks at a time. Yadira Sanchez Olson,, "Year in review: COVID-19 pandemic’s toll includes 700 Lake County deaths and increased anxiety, stress, addiction," 30 Dec. 2020 Manziel has also battled substance abuse, depression and been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. cleveland, "Johnny Manziel’s latest comeback attempt will be in the Fan Controlled Football league," 30 Dec. 2020 The Connecticut Hospital Association lists 27 acute care hospitals in the state, along with 11 non-governmental psychiatric, rehabilitation, substance abuse or terminally ill hospitals. Michael Hamad,, "Seven Connecticut hospitals receive top grades by national watchdog organization," 30 Dec. 2020 Between the stresses of the year, the isolation of physical distancing, and the closure of social spaces, rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders have spiked. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, "Pandemic Year Two," 29 Dec. 2020 Ninety percent of employers say that the pandemic has impacted on their workforce in terms of either mental health, substance abuse, or productivity, according to a McKinsey survey of roughly 1,000 companies published in June. Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work, "The year it was OK not to be OK at work," 29 Dec. 2020 One of the many consequences of COVID-19 is a spike in substance abuse nationwide. Los Angeles Times, "COVID-19 wreaked havoc with their lives. Now, musicians battle another epidemic: addiction," 28 Dec. 2020 Gordon, who led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, hasn't played in a game in over a year because of his substance abuse issues. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Seattle Seahawks' Josh Gordon out indefinitely after not satisfying terms of his reinstatement," 23 Dec. 2020 Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon has been ruled ineligible to play Sunday after a setback in his battle with substance abuse broke the terms of his conditional reinstatement, according to multiple reports. oregonlive, "Seattle Seahawks’ Josh Gordon suffers setback in battle with substance abuse, ineligible to play Sunday: Reports," 23 Dec. 2020

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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Statistics for substance

Last Updated

6 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Substance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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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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