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substance definition


This page has 11 definitions of substance in English, French, and Old French. Substance is a noun and verb. Examples of how to use substance in a sentence are shown. Also define these 13 related words and terms: matter, material, stuff, essential, crux, gist, drug, dope, gear, theology, hypostasis, substantial, and existence.

English substance definition

Alternative forms


From Old French substance, from Latin substantia (substance, essence), from substāns, present active participle of substō (exist, literally stand under), from sub + stō (stand).


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈsʌbstəns/, [ˈsʌbstənts]
  • (file)


substance (countable and uncountable, plural substances)

  1. Physical matter; material.
    • 1699, William Temple, Heads designed for an essay on conversations
      Study gives strength to the mind; conversation, grace: the first apt to give stiffness, the other suppleness: one gives substance and form to the statue, the other polishes it.
    • 2013 July 20, “Welcome to the plastisphere”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8845:
      Plastics are energy-rich substances, which is why many of them burn so readily. Any organism that could unlock and use that energy would do well in the Anthropocene. Terrestrial bacteria and fungi which can manage this trick are already familiar to experts in the field.
    Synonyms: matter, stuff
  2. The essential part of anything; the most vital part.
    Synonyms: crux, gist
    • Gist definition
      The most essential part; the main idea or substance (of a longer or more complicated matter); the crux of a matter; the pith. (1 of 3 gist definitions)
  3. Substantiality; solidity; firmness.
    Some textile fabrics have little substance.
  4. Material possessions; estate; property; resources.
    a man of substance
  5. A form of matter that has constant chemical composition and characteristic properties.
  6. Drugs (illegal narcotics)
    substance abuse
    Synonyms: dope, gear
  7. (theology) Hypostasis.


Related terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.


substance (third-person singular simple present substances, present participle substancing, simple past and past participle substanced)

  1. (rare, transitive) To give substance to; to make real or substantial.
    • 1873, Adeline Dutton Train Whitney, The Other Girls, page 335:
      If life were nothing but what gets phrased and substanced, the world might as well be rolled up and laid away again in darkness.
    • 1982, Dhupaty V. K. Raghavacharyulu, The Song of the Red Rose and Other Poems, page 78:
      The calm ruminating / Reverie, substancing / Intellect into emotion, / Is shelter enough for love / Unhumiliated by faith.

See also

French substance definition


Borrowed from Latin substantia (substance, essence), from substāns, present active participle of substō (exist, literally stand under), from sub + stō (stand).



substance f (plural substances)

  1. substance

Derived terms

Further reading


Old French substance definition

Alternative forms


Borrowed from Latin substantia.


substance f (oblique plural substances, nominative singular substance, nominative plural substances)

  1. most essential; substantial part
  2. existence

Related terms