adjective sub·stan·tive \ ˈsəb-stən-tiv ; senses 3c & 4 also səb-ˈstan-tiv \
|Updated on: 16 Aug 2018

Definition of substantive

1 : having substance : involving matters of major or practical importance to all concerned
  • substantive discussions among world leaders
2 : considerable in amount or numbers : substantial
  • made substantive progress
3 a : real rather than apparent : firm
  • need substantive evidence to prove her guilt
; also : permanent, enduring
b : belonging to the substance of a thing : essential
c : expressing existence
  • the substantive verb is the verb to be
4 a : having the nature or function of a noun
  • a substantive phrase
b : relating to or having the character of a noun or pronominal term in logic
5 : creating and defining rights and duties
  • substantive law
— compare procedural
6 : requiring or involving no mordant
  • a substantive dyeing process
7 : being a totally independent entity





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Examples of substantive in a Sentence

  1. "This was not a drive-by P.R. stunt, and I actually thought it might be," said Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee. "It was a substantive, in-depth discussion with our conference, and he's very effective." —Jackie Calmes & Carl HulseNew York Times27 Jan. 2009
  2. The first substantive issue that the Supreme Court considered in its Brown opinion was whether, as originally understood, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited racial segregation in public schooling. The justices concluded that the historical record was inconclusive. —Randall KennedyNew Republic5 & 12 July 2004
  3. The common critique of art's pleasures and entertainments—that they are trivial, devoid of substantive value, and degrading of art's genuine worth—rests on ignoring this diversity by making two false assumptions: first, that there is basically one kind of aesthetic pleasure in art's entertainment and, secondly, that this pleasure is always a shallow and trivial one, which distracts us from interest in art's real meaning and truth. —Richard ShustermanLet's Entertain: Life's Guilty Pleasures2000
  4. These changes are more symbolic than substantive.

  5. No substantive changes were made to the document.

  6. There is no substantive reason to change the law.

Recent Examples of substantive from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'substantive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of substantive

Middle English, from Anglo-French sustentif — see 2substantive

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms



noun sub·stan·tive \ ˈsəb-stən-tiv \

Definition of substantive

: noun; broadly : a word or word group functioning syntactically as a noun


play \ˈsəb-stən-ti-ˌvīz\ transitive verb

Did You Know?

Substantive was borrowed into Middle English from the Anglo-French adjective sustentif, meaning "having or expressing substance," and can be traced back to the Latin verb substare, which literally means "to stand under." Figuratively, the meaning of "substare" is best understood as "to stand firm" or "to hold out." Since the 14th century, we have used "substantive" to speak of that which is of enough "substance" to stand alone, or be independent. By the 19th century the word evolved related meanings, such as "enduring" and "essential." It also shares some senses with "substantial," such as "considerable in quantity."

Origin and Etymology of substantive

Middle English substantif, from Anglo-French sustentif, from sustentif, adjective, having or expressing substance, from Late Latin substantivus, from Latin substantia

SUBSTANTIVE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of substantive for English Language Learners

  • : important, real, or meaningful

  • : supported by facts or logic

Law Dictionary


adjective sub·stan·tive \ ˈsəb-stən-tiv \

legal Definition of substantive

1 : of or relating to a matter of substance as opposed to form or procedure
  • a substantive issue
  • the substantive instructions to the jury
  • was dismissed on procedural and substantive grounds
— compare procedural
2 : affecting rights, duties, or causes of actions
  • a substantive statutory change
  • a substantive rule of law
3 : existing in its own right; specifically : of or relating to a substantive crime
  • the object of a RICO conspiracy is to violate a substantive RICO provision
  • United States v. Elliot, 571 F.2d 880 (1978)

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excessive admiration or flattery

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