sus·​te·​nance | \ˈsə-stə-nən(t)s \

Definition of sustenance 

1a : means of support, maintenance, or subsistence : living

b : food, provisions also : nourishment

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

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Synonyms for sustenance


aliment, food, nourishment, pabulum

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

While medieval Europeans relied on dairy products for their sustenance, raw milk remained dangerous. Daniel Fernandez, Smithsonian, "The Surprisingly Intolerant History of Milk," 11 May 2018 And that was the sum total of sustenance that was available to their family. Eugene Scott, Washington Post, "Pence’s tone toward refugees may be softer than Trump’s but that’s where the difference ends," 16 Apr. 2018 Misteka Foods, Table for Twelve, and Kupcakes & Co. all brought food and snacks to the store for anybody who walked in looking for some sustenance or a place to relax. Cody Boteler,, "As waters receded in Catonsville, Oella, neighbors lent each other a hand," 31 May 2018 Between West 15th and 16th streets: Food carts huddle inside the Chelsea Market Passage, a covered thoroughfare with seating and global sustenance. Andrea Sachs,, "Take a walk on New York's High Line from end-to-end," 2 July 2018 The folks congregating by the gazebo avoid a sprinkler system to come pray and receive some sustenance. Benjamin Oreskes,, "Many people work hard to avoid the homeless. These volunteers embrace them," 7 June 2018 There is no warren for you, no place underground to eat the soft pellets from your bottom that bring sustenance once again, like memories do, no place to rest and tell stories. Peter Rock, New York Times, "On the Unsettling Allure of ‘Watership Down’," 15 May 2018 The former is perhaps best known for being the last step in finalizing a massive hangover as well as the intended destination of a hungry duo seeking late-night sustenance. Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica, "A different kind of regret: Trying White Castle’s new Impossible Slider," 13 Apr. 2018 These trenches hold on to nutrients and moisture—and when the weather gets scorching, plants draw on the deeper topsoil for sustenance. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "A Heat Wave is Revealing Centuries-Old Sites in Wales," 11 July 2018

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.

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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

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Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for sustenance

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

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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 \

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.

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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).


a private place of worship

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