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[suh-steyn] /səˈsteɪn/
verb (used with object)
to support, hold, or bear up from below; bear the weight of, as a structure.
to bear (a burden, charge, etc.).
to undergo, experience, or suffer (injury, loss, etc.); endure without giving way or yielding.
to keep (a person, the mind, the spirits, etc.) from giving way, as under trial or affliction.
to keep up or keep going, as an action or process:
to sustain a conversation.
to supply with food, drink, and other necessities of life.
to provide for (an institution or the like) by furnishing means or funds.
to support (a cause or the like) by aid or approval.
to uphold as valid, just, or correct, as a claim or the person making it:
The judge sustained the lawyer's objection.
to confirm or corroborate, as a statement:
Further investigation sustained my suspicions.
Origin of sustain
1250-1300; Middle English suste(i)nen < Anglo-French sustenir, Old French < Latin sustinēre to uphold, equivalent to sus- sus- + -tinēre, combining form of tenēre to hold
Related forms
sustainable, adjective
[suh-stey-nid-lee, -steynd-] /səˈsteɪ nɪd li, -ˈsteɪnd-/ (Show IPA),
sustainingly, adverb
sustainment, noun
nonsustained, adjective
nonsustaining, adjective
presustained, adjective
unsustained, adjective
unsustaining, adjective
well-sustained, adjective
1. carry. See support. 3. bear. 5. maintain. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sustaining
  • He was a moralist who did not parade his moral, but who used it as the sustaining skeleton of his narrative.
  • Responsible for developing and sustaining relationships within the college and the community at large.
  • If meetings are often frustrating, they are also an indispensable part of sustaining any organization of even moderate complexity.
  • Cherry picking programs in demand will always provide better results than sustaining a broad set of courses and degrees.
  • sustaining the vision of a venerable little magazine will become an afterthought.
  • sustaining a dead body until its organs can be harvested is a tricky process requiring the latest in medical technology.
  • Such problems in sustaining food production in a region are inevitably reflected in food prices and in food security.
  • New self-sustaining dog houses are perfect for the eco-conscious pooch owner.
  • As the brain's feedback controls get rewired, the neurons end up in a self-sustaining loop, producing a constant ringing.
  • Nothing here is too taxing-though some choices are more sustaining than others.
British Dictionary definitions for sustaining


verb (transitive)
to hold up under; withstand: to sustain great provocation
to undergo (an injury, loss, etc); suffer: to sustain a broken arm
to maintain or prolong: to sustain a discussion
to support physically from below
to provide for or give support to, esp by supplying necessities: to sustain one's family, to sustain a charity
to keep up the vitality or courage of
to uphold or affirm the justice or validity of: to sustain a decision
to establish the truth of; confirm
(music) the prolongation of a note, by playing technique or electronics
Derived Forms
sustained, adjective
sustainedly (səˈsteɪnɪdlɪ) adverb
sustaining, adjective
sustainingly, adverb
sustainment, noun
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Latin sustinēre to hold up, from sub- + tenēre to hold
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 sustaining



late 13c., from Old French sustenir "hold up, endure," from Latin sustinere "hold up, support, endure," from sub "up from below" (see sub-) + tenere "to hold" (see tenet). Related: Sustained; sustaining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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