noun sub·stan·tive \ˈsəb-stən-tiv\

Definition of substantive

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


play \-ti-ˌvīz\ transitive verb

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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

First Known Use: 14th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms



adjective sub·stan·tive \ˈsəb-stən-tiv; senses 2c & 3 also səb-ˈstan-tiv\

Definition of substantive

  1. 1 :  being a totally independent entity

  2. 2a :  real rather than apparent :  firm need substantive evidence to prove her guilt; also :  permanent, enduringb :  belonging to the substance of a thing :  essentialc :  expressing existence the substantive verb is the verb to bed :  requiring or involving no mordant a substantive dyeing process

  3. 3a :  having the nature or function of a noun a substantive phraseb :  relating to or having the character of a noun or pronominal term in logic

  4. 4 :  considerable in amount or numbers :  substantial made substantive progress

  5. 5 :  creating and defining rights and duties substantive law — compare procedural

  6. 6 :  having substance :  involving matters of major or practical importance to all concerned substantive discussions among world leaders





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 Hulse, New York Times, 27 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 Kennedy, New Republic, 5 & 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 Shusterman, Let's Entertain: Life's Guilty Pleasures, 2000

  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.

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, from Anglo-French sustentif —see 1substantive

First Known Use: 14th century

SUBSTANTIVE Defined for English Language Learners



adjective sub·stan·tive \ˈsəb-stən-tiv; senses 2c & 3 also səb-ˈstan-tiv\

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. 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. 2 :  affecting rights, duties, or causes of actions a substantive statutory change a substantive rule of law

  3. 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)

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up substantive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


feeling or affected by lethargy

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