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 Since the murders in June, he has been fired from his job at his family's law firm, accused of embezzlement, shot in the head, gone to rehab for substance abuse and arrested twice. Steve Helling,, 14 Oct. 2021 Jeffrey Lichtman, an attorney for Weaver, said in a statement to CNN that his client is a 16-year-old who was raised in dire circumstances, with an incarcerated father and a mother who battled substance abuse. Sonia Moghe, CNN, 14 Oct. 2021 However, his personal life was riddled with emotional instability, substance abuse and persisting trouble with the law. Natan Ponieman, Forbes, 13 Oct. 2021 Loss of a parent is linked to mental health problems, dropping out of school, low self-esteem, increased risk of substance abuse, risky behaviors and other problems. Julie Washington, cleveland, 12 Oct. 2021 Anyone who suffers from substance abuse can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline toll-free at 1-800-662-4357. Perry Vandell, The Arizona Republic, 12 Oct. 2021 Loneliness has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, dementia, substance abuse, obesity, and suicide. Will Mccarthy, Travel + Leisure, 11 Oct. 2021 Sanmartin received an automatic 10-game suspension for the use of a foreign substance. Bobby Nightengale, The Enquirer, 27 Sep. 2021 Lena Rodriguez, the president of CRT, said the women coming to the center are working through challenging circumstances, like divorce, single motherhood, career changes and recovery from substance abuse. Rebecca Lurye,, 7 Oct. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near substance



substance abuse

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Statistics for substance

Last Updated

21 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Substance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for substance



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

More from Merriam-Webster on substance

Nglish: Translation of substance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of substance for Arabic Speakers


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