sustain

1 of 2

verb

sus·​tain sə-ˈstān How to pronounce sustain (audio)
sustained; sustaining; sustains

transitive verb

1
: to give support or relief to
2
: to supply with sustenance : nourish
3
4
: to support the weight of : prop
also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)
5
: to buoy up
sustained by hope
6
a
: to bear up under
b
: suffer, undergo
sustained heavy losses
7
a
: to support as true, legal, or just
b
: to allow or admit as valid
the court sustained the motion
8
: to support by adequate proof : confirm
testimony that sustains our contention
sustainedly
sə-ˈstā-nəd-lē How to pronounce sustain (audio)
-ˈstānd-lē
adverb
sustainer noun

sustain

2 of 2

noun

: a musical effect that prolongs a note's resonance
utilizing heavy sustain on his guitarBill Dahl

Did you know?

The word sustain is both handy and hardy. Its use has been sustained since the days of Middle English (its ultimate source is Latin sus-, meaning "up," plus tenēre, meaning "to hold") by its utility across a variety of consequential subjects, from environmental protections to legal proceedings to medical reports. The word is so prevalent and so varied in its application, in fact, that it enjoys sustained high ranking as one of our top lookups—evidence of our readers’ sustained commitment to, well, sustaining themselves with information about words.

Example Sentences

Verb Hope sustained us during that difficult time. The roof, unable to sustain the weight of all the snow, collapsed. The army sustained heavy losses. He sustained serious injuries in the accident.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Extending the streak would sustain the midseason fun while also preventing the Sun Devils from moving into a tie atop the conference standings. Los Angeles Times, 20 Jan. 2023 How long can the Cowboys sustain the crazy popularity with zero Super Bowls since ... Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, 12 Jan. 2023 Winds may sustain around 18-23 mph, with gusts near 50 mph at times. Chandra Fleming, Detroit Free Press, 22 Dec. 2022 Can the dynamic wetland habitat, with its competing human and ecological interests, sustain these birds in the years to come? Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Dec. 2022 Two separate doughs are required, each a challenging mix of high-gluten flour to provide structure, sustain long fermentation and absorb incredibly high amounts of fat and sugar. Julia Moskin, New York Times, 19 Dec. 2022 These risks sustain the ongoing narrative that the 2020s is indeed a decade of disruption. Jim Deloach, Forbes, 19 Dec. 2022 The system can’t sustain the mismatch of pediatrician supply and demand from parents for their sick kids. Ellen Dasilva, Fortune, 15 Dec. 2022 That package, called an omnibus, would sustain the federal government through the 2023 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Tony Romm, Anchorage Daily News, 14 Dec. 2022
Noun
The heat wave, fueled by a high-pressure system over California and Nevada that was moving north, was forecast to strike southwest Oregon hardest Tuesday and sustain above-normal high temperatures in the area of the fire for most of the week. Dennis Romero, NBC News, 30 Aug. 2022 But the artistry of Pandora alone cannot a series sustain. Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 17 Dec. 2022 Global streamers do not need much persuasion to bring big shoots to Brazil or sustain or grow in production there. Douglas Wilson, Variety, 2 Dec. 2022 High-quality tutoring like this is expensive and potentially difficult to staff and sustain. oregonlive, 23 Nov. 2022 This feeding helps the lawn sustain a deep green color through the winter. Chris Mckeown, The Enquirer, 3 Sep. 2022 Birdwatching depends on humans protecting environments that encourage and sustain birdlife. Time, 14 Nov. 2022 However, wide receiver Tre Mosley said Thorne’s physical limitations aren’t the biggest concerns for an offense that has struggled to run the ball and sustain drives for much of the season. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, 11 Oct. 2022 And that sense of belonging can go a long way toward helping sustain students’ mental health. Megan Leonhardt, Fortune, 30 July 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English sustenen, from Anglo-French sustein-, stem of sustenir, from Latin sustinēre to hold up, sustain, from sub-, sus- up + tenēre to hold — more at sub-, thin

First Known Use

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1972, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sustain was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near sustain

Cite this Entry

“Sustain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustain. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

sustain

verb
sus·​tain
sə-ˈstān
1
: to give support or relief to
2
: to supply with nourishment
food sustains our bodies
3
: to keep up : prolong
a book that will sustain your interest
4
: to support the weight of : carry
5
: to keep up the spirits of
hope sustained the people
6
a
: to bear up under : endure
b
: experience entry 2, undergo
sustained a serious wound
7
a
: to support as true, legal, or just
b
: to allow or admit as right
the court sustained the motion
8
sustainable
-ˈstā-nə-bəl
adjective
sustainer noun

Legal Definition

sustain

transitive verb
sus·​tain sə-ˈstān How to pronounce sustain (audio)
1
: to support as true, legal, or just
2
: to allow or uphold as valid
sustain an objection
compare overrule sense 1
sustainable adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on sustain

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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