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 In terms of the substance of his daughter’s tweet, Nate Oats didn’t disagree with here statement. Michael Casagrande |, al, "Nate Oats has message about ‘idiots’ online after daughter defends family," 10 Mar. 2020 The government then successfully appealed the injunction and began implementing the policy throughout border states while the appeal over the substance of the policy proceeded. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "US Supreme Court grants Trump’s emergency request on “remain in Mexico” policy," 10 Mar. 2020 The substance of the ads remain unknown, but the former mayor is planning on continuing his campaign. John Gage, Washington Examiner, "Bloomberg buying $7M in ads following Super Tuesday failure," 3 Mar. 2020 Outside of the chaos of what happened on stage that night, what about the substance of what was being shouted? Graeme Mcmillan, Wired, "While You Were Offline: But, Existentially Speaking, Who Is Tina Fey?," 1 Mar. 2020 But Barr, while complaining about the impact of the tweets on the department's mission, didn't take issue with the substance of Trump's comments, including one suggesting that the judge in Stone's case was biased. Anchorage Daily News, "Top Republicans support Barr after his remarks on Trump tweets. Critics are suspicious of Barr’s motives.," 14 Feb. 2020 The last misconception, and the most important, concerns the substance of what the radicals would like to achieve. The Economist, "America’s presidential election The Democratic primaries will be a contest between radicals and repairers," 6 Feb. 2020 Over the past two years, the substance of the culture, which flows from the top, has been tested by death. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "C.J. Beathard leans on 49ers family as he copes with brother's death: 'Toughest month of my life'," 30 Jan. 2020 Those reactions convert chemicals inside a battery into new substances that release electrical energy along the way. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Fruit That Smells Like Butt Could Charge Your iPhone," 26 Feb. 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

18 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Substance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Mar. 2020.

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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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