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 sustain (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 Days later, the boat’s engine sputtered out, stranding the passengers at sea for about a month and forcing them to catch rainwater to sustain themselves. New York Times, 3 Oct. 2021 Now, there will be more pressure to sustain it, with freshman Rahsool Diggins, Hawkins, Jackson and possibly Floyd doing the pushing. Dom Amore,, 27 Sep. 2021 Current digital platforms need to start getting additional and different revenue streams to sustain themselves. Carlos Mureithi, Quartz, 22 Sep. 2021 Clive was the first person to give a name and a language to the feelings Maurice had all his life before this, and Maurice now knows no other world that could sustain him. Alexander Chee, The New Republic, 21 Sep. 2021 Linklater brilliantly captures a man whose faith may well sustain him, but what of others? Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 20 Sep. 2021 Like many, Cade sought a way to spiritually and emotionally sustain herself during the pandemic and the cultural shock waves created by Black Lives Matter. Nate Jackson, Los Angeles Times, 19 Sep. 2021 For Rabbi Sara Zober, playing D&D with her fellow rabbis has helped sustain her through the pandemic. Andrew Esensten,, 7 Sep. 2021 But virtual life drawing is also providing a source of income, and coupled with in-person drawing it has the potential to help models sustain themselves even better than before. Suhita Shirodkar, Wired, 1 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Families are frequently advised that, in order sustain family control of a successful family enterprise, the management must be professionalized. Matthew Erskine, Forbes, 11 Oct. 2021 Will these fusion devices sustain plasmas for sufficient periods of time? Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker, 4 Oct. 2021 The world’s best athletes sustain excellence with constant tinkering, fine-tuning this and strengthening that. Tim Schwartz,, 27 Sep. 2021 Integrations help teams gain and sustain work momentum, and if connected the right way, give leaders and managers better visibility into work at all levels. Smartsheet Contributor, Forbes, 17 Sep. 2021 Bogan and others view Tucson’s success in bringing back this flowing portion of the Santa Cruz as a model and an example that other cities can apply to help desert rivers flow and sustain habitats in the face of the climate crisis. Ian James,, 8 Sep. 2021 But his detailed policy memos and unflashy candidacy have struggled to gain attention or sustain momentum. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, 21 Aug. 2021 The combined, larger area of low pressure will enhance the widespread uplift of air over the Mid-Atlantic, and also generate a pocket of stronger winds aloft, creating wind shear that could intensify and sustain thunderstorms. Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2021 And not only did golf see a boom, but courses have seen that sustain through the first half of 2021 as well. Jim Owczarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7 Aug. 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sustain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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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) : suffer


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.


transitive verb
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

More from Merriam-Webster on sustain

Nglish: Translation of sustain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sustain for Arabic Speakers


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