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 After the Bulldogs’ defense gave up 54 yards on St. Paul’s first possession of the third quarter before ultimately forcing a 40-yard field goal, Davis and the offense went to work hoping to sustain their first scoring drive of the game. Reports, al, "Coastal HS football: UMS-Wright runs win streak to 30, Mobile Christian knocks off Pike Road," 16 Nov. 2019 Molly DiSario, Fort Collins GI Bill needs adequate funding When the GI Bill was signed into law 75 years ago, its education benefits were generous enough to sustain veterans while attending college. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Long-term benefits of ownership; Occupancy limit unfair; GI Bill needs adequate funding (11/14/19)," 14 Nov. 2019 While Nebraska has a lot of streams, most are shallow and get too hot and muddy to sustain cold-water-loving trout. USA TODAY, "‘Embracing tree,’ buffalo retirement, castaway cows: News from around our 50 states," 14 Nov. 2019 The forward section appears to have sustained a larger explosion, large enough to break the ship into two pieces, and indeed the forward torpedo room held more torpedoes than the rear torpedo room. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Lost World War II Submarine Rediscovered 75 Years Later," 12 Nov. 2019 The man appeared to have sustained trauma to his head, police said. Michelle Iracheta, Houston Chronicle, "Body of man with head trauma found east of Houston, police say," 12 Nov. 2019 To the extent that Facebook altered our relation to friendship and Twitter, to sustained thought, Vine changed online video, hitting the viral sweet spot. Wired, "The Undeniable Blackness of Vine (RIP)," 12 Nov. 2019 There’s also enough budding local talent to sustain the growth in these ecosystems: Morocco and Egypt are ranked among the five fastest growing developer communities on the continent over the past year. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "The story of Africa’s tech landscape is often told without a key missing piece," 12 Nov. 2019 Stokke wasn’t able to sustain his block on the first play of the drive but Taylor still gained 7 yards. Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "UW fullback Mason Stokke was a difference-maker against Iowa and could be again Saturday," 12 Nov. 2019 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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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

19 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Sustain.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

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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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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

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strength of mind

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