sus·tain | \sə-ˈstān \
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, -ˈstānd-lē \ adverb
sustainer noun

Examples of sustain in a Sentence


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

Finally cleared to rehab, Smith sustained a right elbow fracture that required surgery and forced him to miss the entire 2016 season. Maria Torres, kansascity, "The Royals’ rotation is falling apart. They may have found hope in another Rule 5 get," 11 July 2018 The building itself sustained minor damage, mostly to a window and a wooden facade surrounding the south side of the building. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "Woman crashes Mercedes into Underbelly restaurant in Montrose," 11 July 2018 The 44-year-old man, who lives in Sterling Heights, sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries in the fall and was taken to a hospital, according to a department news release from the Ferndale Police Department. Caroline Blackmon, Detroit Free Press, "Police chase ends in 15-foot fall for home invasion suspect in Ferndale," 10 July 2018 The two sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital, where Tishman died overnight. Chabeli Herrera,, "Honeymooner cruising from Lauderdale killed in zipline mishap," 9 July 2018 Joe Ganim sustained his early fundraising pace in the governor’s race with a nearly $800,000 haul through June 30 — despite being barred from public campaign financing because of his criminal past. Neil Vigdor,, "Joe Ganim Approaches $800K Fundraising Mark In Governor's Race," 9 July 2018 The two sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital, where Tishman died overnight, according to the newspaper. Chabeli Herrera, miamiherald, "They were zip-lining on their honeymoon when they collided. He died, she was injured," 9 July 2018 The left-hander sustained a torn elbow ligament injury in FSU’s season opener against Xavier that forced him to undergo surgery and miss the rest of the 2018 season. Roy Parry,, "Seattle Mariners, FSU's Cal Raleigh reach deal before deadline," 7 July 2018 Monk, who is entering his second season in the NBA, sustained the injury Friday against the Thunder. Khadrice Rollins,, "Malik Monk Out for Remainder of Summer League With Fractured Thumb," 7 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The movie is filled with stunning landscapes, and the sleek lions are part of an arid but beautiful terrain that both sustains and threatens. Erin Blakemore, Washington Post, "Rare desert lions are magnificent, and you can see them in their home territory," 8 July 2018 Smythe stood, bent over the open piano, manipulating the strings while the sustain pedal was depressed by ensemble member Eric Segnitz. Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Present Music takes a chance on unpredictable sounds," 23 Feb. 2018 His efficiency is helping the TCU offense sustain drives and give the defense rest. Matt Jennings, ajc, "TCU QB Kenny Hill finally learning ‘how to win,’ Gary Patterson says," 24 Sep. 2017 Our hybrid elective-hereditary peoplehood sustains and upholds our ideals. Nicholas M. Gallagher, National Review, "America Needs to Reconcile Its Id and Superego," 11 July 2017 In all, the team started three different quarterbacks throughout the year, had a fourth sustain a season-ending injury during fall camp and a fifth waiting in the wings in case of an emergency. Tom Green,, "The most important lesson Auburn's Chip Lindsey learned at Arizona State," 29 May 2017

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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Statistics for sustain

Last Updated

22 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sustain

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

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More Definitions for sustain



English Language Learners Definition of sustain

: to provide what is needed for (something or someone) to exist, continue, etc.

: to hold up the weight of (something)

: to deal with or experience (something bad or unpleasant)


sus·tain | \sə-ˈstān \
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.


transitive verb
sus·tain | \sə-ˈstān \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on sustain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sustain

Spanish Central: Translation of sustain

Nglish: Translation of sustain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sustain for Arabic Speakers

Comments on sustain

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


to teach someone the beliefs of a group

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