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 Rice, for example, a major source of sustenance across the Indian subcontinent, is highly susceptible to changes in rainfall. Derek Van Dam Cnn Meteorologist, CNN, "Changes in India's monsoon rainfall could bring serious consequences to more than a billion people," 14 Apr. 2021 Restaurants are givers, providing constant sustenance to its neighbors. Danielle Bernabe, Fortune, "The next steps for reopening restaurants and bringing communities back together," 10 Apr. 2021 The supernatural drama relies on special effects and whiz-bam audio stylings for narrative sustenance., "This week’s TV: The Oscars at long last, Earth Day shows, and a new Ed Helms comedy," 19 Apr. 2021 Many Syrians have resorted to desperate measures to find fuel and sustenance for themselves and their families. Isabella Kwai, New York Times, "Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, and his wife have tested positive for the virus.," 8 Mar. 2021 Recent studies have probed the specific mechanisms in the brain that lead to the creation and sustenance of belief. Serggio Lanata, Scientific American, "A Vaccination against the Pandemic of Misinformation," 22 Feb. 2021 List them in terms of priority — shelter and sustenance are the top. Sarah Skidmore Sell, oregonlive, "Suze Orman has some advice for women on surviving the COVID-19 pandemic financially," 21 Feb. 2021 The quilombo residents have settled into a comfortable, if poor, existence, fishing and farming for sustenance. Washington Post, "A story of slavery — and space," 26 Mar. 2021 The explosion of algae blooms, particularly in the Indian River Lagoon, which stretches 156 miles along Florida’s east coast, has decimated the seagrass that manatees and the lagoon’s fish population depend on for sustenance. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "Florida’s Poop Problem Is Killing Manatees," 15 Mar. 2021

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

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sustenance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for sustenance



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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