sus·​te·​nance | \ ˈsə-stə-nən(t)s How to pronounce sustenance (audio) \

Definition of sustenance

1a : means of support, maintenance, or subsistence : living
2a : the act of sustaining : the state of being sustained
b : a supplying or being supplied with the necessaries of life
3 : something that gives support, endurance, or strength

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for sustenance


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of sustenance in a Sentence

Tree bark provides deer with sustenance in periods of drought. The village depends on the sea for sustenance. She draws spiritual sustenance from daily church attendance.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web In between all of those overblown and possibly labor-intensive holiday meals there will still be the need for sustenance and knowing that there is something to pull out of the fridge, heat and eat is a welcome thought. Katie Workman, NBC News, "Sunday Suppers: An easy dinner you can make in your slow cooker," 22 Dec. 2019 The tiny insects, usually no bigger than the tip of a pencil, are known to hijack spider eggs for their larvae’s sustenance and development. Andrea Michelson, Smithsonian, "Tiny Parasitic Wasp Named After Idris Elba Hijacks Stink Bug Eggs," 21 Nov. 2019 While moving forward, Vampire Weekend dares go back to forgotten sounds of American sustenance. Armond White, National Review, "Vampire Weekend Makes the Best Pop-Political Album of the Year," 10 Dec. 2019 Little steak sandwiches provide welcome sustenance for imbibing guests. David Tanis, New York Times, "Finger Sandwiches Save the Day," 2 Dec. 2019 But the prospect of sitting through more to find out, frankly, is too high a price, relative to the modest level of sustenance provided by this timed-to-Thanksgiving turkey. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Servant' is eerie but can't overcome its worm-ridden twist," 28 Nov. 2019 The supporters for the protected areas range from sustenance fishermen on the tiniest islands of the Pacific to researchers at the most elite institutions of academia. CBS News, "This small stretch of ocean stirred a conservation movement – but now it's at risk," 26 Nov. 2019 In her own life, much as in her professional work, Matsoukas gains sustenance from her community. The Economist, "From Beyoncé to the big screen: the whirlwind rise of Melina Matsoukas," 22 Nov. 2019 Alabama and Auburn have easy practice games (most likely) against FCS opponents, so all the hungry eyes in the state will be hunting scoreboards for pigskin sustenance elsewhere. Joseph Goodman, al, "Oregon, Ohio State on upset watch; Georgia vulnerable," 21 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sustenance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of sustenance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sustenance

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from sustenir

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sustenance

Time Traveler for sustenance

Time Traveler

The first known use of sustenance was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for sustenance

Last Updated

7 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sustenance.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sustenance


How to pronounce sustenance (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sustenance

: something (such as food) that keeps someone or something alive
: something that gives support, help, or strength


sus·​te·​nance | \ ˈsə-stə-nəns How to pronounce sustenance (audio) \

Kids Definition of sustenance

2 : the act of supplying with the necessities of life
3 : support entry 2 sense 2 God is our sustenance in time of trouble.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on sustenance

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


to insert between existing elements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!