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

Both the driving officer and a civilian passenger sustained minor injuries in the crash. Bree Burkitt, azcentral, "Former Navajo Nation police officer sentenced to 16 years in prison for fatal DUI crash," 14 July 2018 Officials said the service member died of a wound sustained in a combat operation. CBS News, "American service member killed in Afghanistan, second U.S. death in 6 days," 12 July 2018 The lost bees of the Maoxian Valley, however, may have done farmers there a favor, forcing them to plant a more diverse mix of crops, which should sustain healthier populations of pollinators in the future. Hannah Nordhaus, WSJ, "‘Buzz’ and ‘Our Native Bees’ Review: Give Bees a Chance," 12 July 2018 The scene has a level of wry, subtle wit that, alas, writer-director Shana Feste does not manage to sustain in Boundaries, a road movie and shaggy dog story (full of shaggy dogs) with sharp detours but an inevitable destination. Gary Thompson,, "'Boundaries' reduces Farmiga to Plummer's helper.," 4 July 2018 These videos set a slightly odd tone – grand and nostalgic – which isn’t sustained in the rest of the museum. Philip Kennicott, kansascity, "St. Louis’ Gateway Arch emerges with new name, skeptical view of western expansion," 3 July 2018 Pacylowski’s husband John Pacylowski died in September 2016 while trying to fix damage their building sustained in the July 2016 flood. Kate Magill, Howard County Times, "A month after flooding, Ellicott City shops reach a watershed moment in deciding whether to return," 29 June 2018 At the time of Mariah's demise, Bushmaster is far from the scene of the crime, back home in Jamaica, recovering from explosive wounds sustained near the season's end. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Luke Cage's' Breakout Star on Bringing Season 2's Villain to Life," 27 June 2018 There has been little room for Clint Frazier, the fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft, who was red-hot at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after recovering from a concussion sustained in spring training. New York Times, "Good News: Gardner Returns. Bad News: Yankees Still Fall to Rays.," 22 June 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

27 Aug 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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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