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 Before Prince Andrew’s interview, the biggest royal ruction in years—albeit one very different in both tone and substance—had come only weeks earlier, during Harry and Meghan’s September tour of Southern Africa. Simon Usborne, Town & Country, "The Royal Family Has Lost Control of the Message," 23 Nov. 2019 Oregon’s rules on what substances can be banned from marijuana vape products are broad. oregonlive, "Vitamin E acetate banned from Oregon cannabis vaping products," 23 Nov. 2019 Cenen Placencia, 71, from Kodiak, was arraigned on Friday for a complaint charging him with possession and intent to distribute controlled substances, the US Attorney for the District of Alaska said in a release. Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN, "A man was arrested for allegedly smuggling illegal drugs in rotten goat intestines," 23 Nov. 2019 Last month, the beleaguered co-working company reportedly recalled 2,300 units due to elevated levels of formaldehyde, a substance linked to respiratory issues and, at high levels of exposure, to cancers. Anne Quito, Quartz at Work, "Must every office phone booth feel like an upright coffin?," 22 Nov. 2019 In another pocket was a plastic makeup case containing two baggies of a white crystal substance police believed was methamphetamine. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Men solicit needles from CVS customers and workers: Berea Police Blotter," 21 Nov. 2019 These substances have been linked to health problems ranging from headaches and respiratory irritation to reproductive complications and cancer. Aaron Lamplugh, The Conversation, "Nail salon workers suffer chemical exposures that can be like working at a garage or a refinery," 21 Nov. 2019 At a second Houston restaurant, inspectors observed a black substance inside the ice making machine, the records show. Marcy De Luna, Houston Chronicle, "Live roaches, black substance in ice machine highlight Houston restaurant violations (Nov. 11-17)," 19 Nov. 2019 The second-year player had served two games of a four-game suspension for violating NFL conduct and substance abuse policies following three arrests last offseason in his hometown of Miami. Terry Spencer, The Denver Post, "Dolphins release Mark Walton after arrest for hitting girlfriend," 19 Nov. 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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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

26 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Substance.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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