substance

noun

sub·​stance ˈsəb-stən(t)s How to pronounce substance (audio)
1
a
: essential nature : essence
b
: a fundamental or characteristic part or quality
c
Christian Science : god sense 1b
2
a
: 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 ideasRichard Reeves
3
a
: 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
substanceless adjective
Phrases
in substance
: in respect to essentials : fundamentally

Example Sentences

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web But the immense legislation—unveiled in July and passed by Congress shortly thereafter—came so quickly that foreign friends and foes alike had little chance to process its substance. Justin Worland, Time, 16 Jan. 2023 Bill Belichick is the master of the non-answer answer, whether in the form of long sentences filled with lots of words but little substance in a midweek press conference or short grunts and monosyllables at a losing postgame lectern. Tara Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Jan. 2023 The tacky substance coated a large, five-petal flower and, over time, solidified into amber. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Jan. 2023 Since the advent of television, style has played a far more important role than substance in the armies of the right and the left. Joe Klein, Washington Post, 12 Jan. 2023 La Salle police said that a green-colored oxidizer had been released in the area and warned residents not to touch the substance. Gina Martinez, CBS News, 11 Jan. 2023 Katharine Murphy, a substance abuse counselor with St. Joseph, stopped him at the door. Los Angeles Times, 11 Jan. 2023 The Ghost mimics the even more expensive Phantom sedan in both style and substance, offering an interior that’s whisper quiet and impeccably outfitted with the finest materials. Drew Dorian, Car and Driver, 11 Jan. 2023 With much of the deadly substance trafficked into the United States from Mexico, Biden faces bipartisan pressure to crack down on drug smuggling. Arkansas Online, 10 Jan. 2023 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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

Dictionary Entries Near substance

Cite this Entry

“Substance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/substance. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

substance

noun
sub·​stance ˈsəb-stən(t)s How to pronounce substance (audio)
1
a
: essential nature : essence
divine substance
b
: the fundamental or essential part, quality, or meaning
the substance of the speech
2
a
: physical material from which something is made
b
: material of particular or definite chemical constitution
an oily substance
c
: something (as drugs or alcoholic beverages) considered harmful and usually subject to legal restriction
substance abuse
3
: material possessions : property
a person of substance

Medical Definition

substance

noun
sub·​stance ˈsəb-stən(t)s How to pronounce substance (audio)
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

substance

noun
sub·​stance
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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