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[suhb-stuh ns] /ˈsʌb stəns/
that of which a thing consists; physical matter or material:
form and substance.
a species of matter of definite chemical composition:
a chalky substance.
the subject matter of thought, discourse, study, etc.
the actual matter of a thing, as opposed to the appearance or shadow; reality.
substantial or solid character or quality:
claims lacking in substance.
consistency; body:
soup without much substance.
the meaning or gist, as of speech or writing.
something that has separate or independent existence.
  1. something that exists by itself and in which accidents or attributes inhere; that which receives modifications and is not itself a mode; something that is causally active; something that is more than an event.
  2. the essential part of a thing; essence.
  3. a thing considered as a continuing whole.
possessions, means, or wealth:
to squander one's substance.
Linguistics. the articulatory or acoustic reality or the perceptual manifestation of a word or other construction (distinguished from form).
a standard of weights for paper.
in substance,
  1. concerning the essentials; substantially.
  2. actually; really:
    That is in substance how it appeared to me.
Origin of substance
1250-1300; Middle English < Latin substantia substance, essence (literally, that which stands under, i.e., underlies), equivalent to sub- sub- + -stant- (stem of stāns, present participle of stāre to stand) + -ia -ia (see -ance)
Related forms
substanceless, adjective
4. theme, subject. 4, 5, 8. essence. 8. significance, import, pith.
Synonym Study
1. See matter. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for substances
  • Below is a link to an article about a study that examined aversion to bitter substances found in some fruits and veggies.
  • It's the hardest known material, of course, and it doesn't react chemically with other substances.
  • These molecules react with substances in bodily fluids.
  • Vegetables are in danger of spoiling if dirt or foreign substances of any kind remain on them.
  • In addition, the endothelium acts as a barrier to prevent toxic substances from entering the blood vessel's wall.
  • Foods provide nutrients and other valuable substances not present in supplements.
  • What's more, addictive substances directly cause cognitive failures.
  • Later research found that there was little evidence that these substances caused cancer in humans.
  • Early cyclists used alcohol and other substances to dull the pain.
  • And some percentage of humans will seek out mood-altering substances or experiences that imperil their lives.
British Dictionary definitions for substances


the tangible matter of which a thing consists
a specific type of matter, esp a homogeneous material with a definite composition
the essence, meaning, etc, of a written or spoken thought
solid or meaningful quality
material density: a vacuum has no substance
material possessions or wealth: a man of substance
  1. the supposed immaterial substratum that can receive modifications and in which attributes and accidents inhere
  2. a thing considered as a continuing whole that survives the changeability of its properties
(Christian Science) that which is eternal
a euphemistic term for any illegal drug
in substance, with regard to the salient points
Derived Forms
substanceless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Latin substantia, from substāre, from sub- + stāre to stand
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for substances



c.1300, "essential nature," from Old French substance (12c.), from Latin substantia "being, essence, material," from substans, present participle of substare "stand firm, be under or present," from sub "up to, under" + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). A loan-translation of Greek hypostasis. Meaning "any kind of corporeal matter" is first attested mid-14c. Sense of "the matter of a study, discourse, etc." first recorded late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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substances in Medicine

substance sub·stance (sŭb'stəns)

  1. That which has mass and occupies space; matter.

  2. A material of a particular kind or constitution.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Idioms and Phrases with substances
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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