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

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Synonyms for sustenance


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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 The Army burned houses and churches as well as cornfields—sacred sources of sustenance for Mayans. Rachel Nolan, The New Yorker, "A Translation Crisis at the Border," 30 Dec. 2019 This corner of southwestern Virginia has long sought alternatives to coal as a source of sustenance. Eduardo Porter, New York Times, "Can a Coal Town Reinvent Itself?," 6 Dec. 2019 China, which is home to a third of the world’s unicorns, will remain the prime source of IPO sustenance for Hong Kong. Washington Post, "How the U.S. Stole Hong Kong’s IPO Crown," 23 Sep. 2019 Trusting in the goodness and generosity of others to provide transportation, housing and sustenance -- in the same manner as St. Francis did -- Twyman is crossing the country, inviting ticket holders to a night of inspiration. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, "‘St. Francis’ heads to Off Broadway, with a stop in Westlake," 31 Jan. 2020 Up to 40% of Mongolia’s 3m people are nomadic herders, relying entirely on their sheep, cattle, yaks, camels, horses or goats for income and sustenance. The Economist, "Daily chart Mongolia’s deadly winters are becoming more frequent," 25 Jan. 2020 In addition to being a key facilitator for the growth and sustenance of other industries, the trucking industry is a significant creator of jobs within the Commonwealth., "Should Massachusetts ban commercial trucks from local streets except for pickup and delivery?," 28 Dec. 2019 From the Johnsons letting me shelter from the rain to the many unattended food huts along the path, set up by people who trusted walkers to put change in their honesty box in return for sustenance. The Economist, "Walking the wall: my Brexit hike in northern England," 4 Dec. 2019 Because a bigger creature would require even more oxygen to sustain its long, deep dives for sustenance, its heart would need to beat even faster than a blue whale's to refuel its body with oxygen at the surface. Fox News, "A blue whale had his heartbeat taken for the first time ever — and scientists are shocked," 29 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.

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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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Time Traveler for sustenance

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for sustenance

Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sustenance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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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.

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