sub·strate | \ˈsəb-ˌstrāt \

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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Did You Know?

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

This enzyme cleaves a specific substrate that researchers can sprinkle onto cells in the lab. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Scientists use caffeine to control genes—and treat diabetic mice with coffee," 20 June 2018 This small member of the catfish family can be found in small to large rivers with moderate to strong currents and substrates of sand, gravel or rock. Michigan Wildlife Council, Detroit Free Press, "Polishing a gem: Plan aims for St. Clair-Detroit River system improvements," 10 July 2018 That means isolated spaces for females, separate habitats for males and females, as well as natural substrates. Carol Motsinger,, "Cincinnati Zoo just got a $50 million gift. But it's just the beginning of a big plan," 7 June 2018 Veeramoney allowed me to ink on both a traditional plastic substrate as well as the EPD surface, and there was a noticeable difference. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "How Intel is quietly designing the future of dual-display PCs inside its labs," 4 June 2018 But about 50% of the glass substrate used in its LCDs is made by Corning, an American company. The Economist, "A threatened trade war between China and America may be on hold," 24 May 2018 Potentially compounding the risks posed by such sites, certain substrates such as clay soil have been shown to increase the infectivity of prions. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "UW researchers verify chronic wasting disease prions at mineral lick sites," 2 May 2018 The key to this method is that the veins come into good contact with the substrate. Molly Marquand, Good Housekeeping, "5 Of The Easiest Houseplants To Grow From Cuttings," 14 Dec. 2017 Life did its thing, on and in the inanimate substrate. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "No One Picks Up the Phone Anymore," 31 May 2018

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.

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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

The first known use of substrate was in 1730

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More Definitions for substrate


sub·strate | \ˈsəb-ˌstrāt \

Medical Definition of substrate 

2 : the base on which an organism lives

3 : a substance acted upon (as by an enzyme)

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Comments on substrate

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


one that holds something together

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