sub·​stan·​tive | \ ˈsəb-stən-tiv How to pronounce substantive (audio) ; senses 3c & 4 also səb-ˈstan-tiv How to pronounce substantive (audio) \

Definition of substantive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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
3a : 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
4a : 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


sub·​stan·​tive | \ ˈsəb-stən-tiv How to pronounce substantive (audio) \

Definition of substantive (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Other Words from substantive


substantively adverb
substantiveness noun


substantivize \ ˈsəb-​stən-​ti-​ˌvīz How to pronounce substantive (audio) \ 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."

Examples of substantive in a Sentence

Adjective "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 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 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 These changes are more symbolic than substantive. No substantive changes were made to the document. There is no substantive reason to change the law. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Because the amendments made by Mar and Supervisor Connie Chan made substantive changes to the ordinance, the committee must take up the legislation again in two weeks before it can be sent to the full Board of Supervisors for consideration. J.d. Morris, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 May 2022 Staley agreed and stressed the importance of more substantive changes like a proposal to adjust the N.C.A.A.’s revenue distribution model, which incentivizes investment in men’s basketball at the expense of the women’s game. New York Times, 23 Mar. 2022 The last time Alabama made substantive changes to the teacher certification process was in 2019, when legislators voted to expand the time length of emergency certificates. al, 12 Jan. 2022 And votes in favor were more likely to support resolutions calling for a company to do less anti-climate lobbying than requiring substantive changes to its operations or direct carbon footprint. Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, 16 Dec. 2021 Legislative supermajorities, for instance, are required to make any substantive changes. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 3 Dec. 2021 In February 2020, Kaplan and other leaders reviewed the proposal - and quickly rejected the most substantive changes. Elizabeth Dwoskin, Nitasha Tiku And Craig Timberg, Anchorage Daily News, 21 Nov. 2021 In February 2020, Kaplan and other leaders reviewed the proposal — and quickly rejected the most substantive changes. Washington Post, 19 Nov. 2021 The hypotheticals that swirl around Notre Dame and its congealing reality that a national championship isn’t just empty ambition are more twisted and less substantive than ever before this deep into a college football season. Chris Sims, The Indianapolis Star, 26 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But handling the situation at the southern border has already become a major substantive and communications problem for Biden’s team. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, 22 Apr. 2021 Obstruction of justice is a crime that is independent of any underlying or substantives crime that may have been committed. Joyce White Vance, Time, 25 July 2019 See More

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.

First Known Use of substantive


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 7


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for substantive


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


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

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The first known use of substantive was in the 14th century

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substantive due process

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Substantive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for substantive


sub·​stan·​tive | \ ˈsəb-stən-tiv How to pronounce substantive (audio) \

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)

More from Merriam-Webster on substantive

Nglish: Translation of substantive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of substantive for Arabic Speakers


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