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

Definition of sustain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to give support or relief to
2 : to supply with sustenance : nourish
4 : to support the weight of : prop also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)
5 : to buoy up sustained by hope
6a : to bear up under
b : suffer, undergo sustained heavy losses
7a : 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



Definition of sustain (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Other Words from sustain


sustainedly \ sə-​ˈstā-​nəd-​lē How to pronounce sustainedly (audio) , -​ˈstānd-​lē \ adverb
sustainer noun

Synonyms for sustain

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of sustain in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Offensively, could not sustain drives and could not get a first down on third or fourth down, but again, credit to them. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Kevin Stefanski discusses Week 6 loss to Steelers in conference call: Transcript," 18 Oct. 2020 This treat will sustain them for a few days, hopefully. Abigail Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, "12 very Houston things to give trick-or-treaters instead of candy this year," 13 Oct. 2020 While most of the team’s problems can be traced to a defense that can’t stop the run (172.5 yards per game) and has given up 12 touchdown passes in four weeks, this offense can’t sustain its current scoring pace without a better offensive line. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, "Rock bottom: It can’t get any worse than this for Cowboys-Giants," 9 Oct. 2020 Most clubs in the world sustain themselves on young talent developed in-house. Pat Brennan, The Enquirer, "Notebook: What FC Cincinnati's recent injection of youth says about the club," 9 Oct. 2020 But his job as a computer networking specialist couldn't sustain his luxury lifestyle. Beth Warren, The Courier-Journal, "Rogue pilots trafficked a billion dollars in cartel drugs across US while no one watched," 2 Oct. 2020 Without the long ball, the Twins couldn’t sustain a rally, going 2-for-13 with runners on scoring position. Phil Miller, Star Tribune, "Despite loss to Reds, Twins are on doorstep of AL Central title," 26 Sep. 2020 Although the coast of Lebanon could sustain a high concentration of murices, when demand outstripped supply they were imported from other areas of the Mediterranean and from the Gulf of Aqaba. Mark Woolmer, National Geographic, "Purple Reign: A passion for purple built the Phoenicians' vast trading empire," 24 Sep. 2020 Chamberlin did not sustain life threatening injuries. Eileen Kelley,, "Father of NFL running back James White dies when car is smashed in Broward turning lane," 21 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Some digital keyboards include dynamic pedals similar to traditional pianos, including a sustain pedal and dampeners. Michael Pollick,, "The best digital keyboard of 2020," 26 Sep. 2020 Some parents stay away from metal swing sets because powder coatings can fade or sustain chips, creating an eyesore in the backyard. Sian Babish,, "The best swing set of 2020," 22 Sep. 2020 The gadget, which features a tablet computer that can play music and entertainment, does not just ask and answer questions but can actually engage in and sustain conversation. Lianne Kolirin, CNN, "Talking robots could be used to combat loneliness and boost mental health in care homes," 8 Sep. 2020 Packers running back Aaron Jones, who had three 100-yard games in December, helped Green Bay sustain success a year ago. Star Tribune, "Vikings 2020 schedule: Our game by game breakdown," 12 Sep. 2020 China car plant came online late last year and the Model Y SUV, with a backlog of orders placed before the pandemic, started rolling off the U.S. production line in March, helping sustain deliveries in recent months. WSJ, "The Business Report Card: How 12 Key Companies Have Fared in 2020," 5 Sep. 2020 This team has been at its best this season when the bottom of the order is getting two-out hits to either start or sustain rallies. Mark Gonzales,, "Cubs Q&A: What’s wrong with the offense? And what areas need addressing before the trade deadline?," 26 Aug. 2020 Can the championship holdovers and the new blood sustain the greatness? Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "As MLB's season hits the middle third, assessing the shoo-ins, suspects and see-you-next-years," 18 Aug. 2020 The lawsuits say that malfunctioning brakes, sudden accelerations, and faulty throttles, handlebars and wheels caused riders to be thrown off the two-wheel devices and sustain injuries such as fractures, broken bones, and concussions. Luz Lazo, Washington Post, "Lime and Bird sued over alleged scooter safety failures and injuries to dozens," 21 Aug. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of sustain


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1972, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sustain


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

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Time Traveler for sustain

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for sustain

Last Updated

25 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sustain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for sustain


How to pronounce sustain (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sustain

: to provide what is needed for (something or someone) to exist, continue, etc.
formal : to hold up the weight of (something)
formal : to deal with or experience (something bad or unpleasant)


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

Kids Definition of sustain

1 : to provide with what is needed Food sustains life.
2 : to keep up the spirits of Hope sustained us.
3 : to keep up : prolong This author's books sustain my interest.
4 : to hold up the weight of The roof couldn't sustain the weight of the snow.
5 : experience entry 2 The army sustained heavy losses.
6 : to allow or uphold as true, legal, or fair The judge sustained the motion to dismiss the case.
sus·​tain | \ sə-ˈstān How to pronounce sustain (audio) \

Legal Definition of sustain

1 : to support as true, legal, or just
2 : to allow or uphold as valid sustain an objection — compare overrule sense 1

Other Words from sustain

sustainable adjective

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