sub·​strate | \ ˈsəb-ˌstrāt How to pronounce substrate (audio) \

Definition of substrate

2 : the base on which an organism lives the soil is the substrate of most seed plants
3 : a substance acted upon (as by an enzyme)

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With its Latin prefix sub-, "below", substrate obviously refers to a layer under something else. Rock may serve as the substrate for the coral in a coral reef. Tiny wafers of silicon (or another semiconductor) serve as the substrate for computer chips. Substrate may also mean subsoil—that is, the layer under the topsoil, lacking in organic matter or humus. Substrate is part of the vocabulary of various other sciences, including chemistry and biology. But although it's mostly a scientific term, writers may also use it to mean simply "foundation"—for instance, when observing that reading is the substrate on which most other learning is based.

Examples of substrate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Nor has any human or dog activity displaced the substrate enough to create any apparent lumps. Wes Siler, Outside Online, 30 Apr. 2022 Walking on Autopilot Prakash and Bull started off expecting the cilia to glide over surfaces, with a thin layer of fluid separating animal and substrate. Quanta Magazine, 16 Mar. 2022 And in the days following a rainstorm, Shultz says the crawlers create a sort of wake in the rocky substrate in front of them. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, 17 Mar. 2022 The other is to move to larger wafer diameters and different substrate material systems as long as they are demonstrated to have equal or better performance, yield and costs as the current approaches. Sabbir Rangwala, Forbes, 28 Oct. 2021 Watermen say the upper Chesapeake would benefit after its shells are moved elsewhere and oyster larvae, or spat, produced from the shell substrate is ferried back to harvestable areas. Taylor Deville,, 14 Feb. 2022 Both silicon and biology, in principle, can support the same kind of consciousness, despite the difference in substrate. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 28 Jan. 2022 The foundation says the state agency has demonstrated that relying on shell substrate to boost mollusk numbers is ineffective. Taylor Deville,, 14 Feb. 2022 The strengthening of activity within and between brain cells is believed to be a substrate for memory. Megan Molteni, STAT, 15 Nov. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of substrate

1730, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for substrate

Medieval Latin substratum

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Time Traveler for substrate

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The first known use of substrate was in 1730

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Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Substrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for substrate


sub·​strate | \ ˈsəb-ˌstrāt How to pronounce substrate (audio) \

Medical Definition of substrate

2 : the base on which an organism lives
3 : a substance acted upon (as by an enzyme)

More from Merriam-Webster on substrate

Nglish: Translation of substrate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of substrate for Arabic Speakers


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