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 However, Jacob struggled with substance abuse and addiction for most of his life. Alyssa Stoney, azcentral, "New Mesa facility designed to care for babies with prenatal substance abuse," 6 Dec. 2019 Previous research has shown that a greater amount of toxic substances are released as the voltage needed to heat vape devices increases. Erika Edwards, NBC News, "Toxic metal, leached from e-cigarette coil, permanently scars woman's lung," 5 Dec. 2019 Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis on Wednesday launched a new campaign to educate children about the dangers of substance abuse, with Seminole County set to test out the initiative’s new school assembly program. Leslie Postal,, "Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis launches campaign to combat substance abuse among kids," 4 Dec. 2019 Excavation, transportation and disposal of these substances is risky not only to neighbors but the millions of people who live next door to Superfund sites. Adam Liptak, New York Times, "Supreme Court Considers Fight Over Superfund Site in Montana," 3 Dec. 2019 According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are 413 facilities in Connecticut that offer substance abuse and mental health services. Kristina Tedeschi Wayne,, "Less healthy than Gen Xers, millennials see rise in depression, substance abuse," 1 Dec. 2019 The list of harms starts with malnourishment, dental trauma, STIs, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, dissociation, addiction, anxiety, and depression. Ane Mathieson And Alexi Ashe Meyers, Marie Claire, "Decriminalizing the Sex Trade Isn't the Answer—The Equality Model Is," 25 Nov. 2019 The notion is that if doctors and teachers can discover just who has suffered these harms, steps can be taken to forestall possible negative outcomes like mental illness, substance abuse and chronic diseases. David Finkelhor, The Conversation, "How universal childhood trauma screenings could backfire," 21 Nov. 2019 The ruling requires the EPA to evaluate the health and environmental hazards posed by the use or disposal of substances such as asbestos in insulation and lead in pipes or paint. Bob Egelko,, "Courts tells EPA it must continue to regulate toxic materials no longer made," 14 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

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Substance.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 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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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).


delight or enjoyment

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