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[in-suh b-stan-shuh l] /ˌɪn səbˈstæn ʃəl/
not substantial or real; lacking substance:
an insubstantial world of dreams.
not solid or firm; weak; flimsy.
not substantial in amount or size; inconsiderable:
an insubstantial sum.
Origin of insubstantial
1600-10; < Late Latin insubstantiālis. See in-3, substantial
Related forms
insubstantiality, noun
insubstantially, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for insubstantial
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • insubstantial payment this, but evidently sufficient in the Captain's eyes, as his conduct proved.

    London's Heart B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon
  • There were things, vague and insubstantial, which he could not understand.

    The Shadow Arthur Stringer
  • Here we may fashion pictures and weave around them gossamer draperies as insubstantial as this golden twilight.

    The Broken Sword Dennison Worthington
  • She married the Marquis of Vaccarone, a babbling Neapolitan, insubstantial and light.

    Csar or Nothing Po Baroja Baroja
  • They are spurious and insubstantial departures, and do not properly come within the purview of the stricter theory.

  • Beyond was the renowned staircase, which, rising with insubstantial grace, lost itself in silvery altitude like the way to heaven.

    The Pretty Lady Arnold E. Bennett
  • From it rose the towers and high-peaked roofs of the city, insubstantial as a dream.

    The Path of the King John Buchan
British Dictionary definitions for insubstantial


not substantial; flimsy, tenuous, or slight
imaginary; unreal
Derived Forms
insubstantiality, noun
insubstantially, adverb
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 insubstantial

c.1600, from Medieval Latin insubstantialis, from in- "not" (see in- (1)) + substantialis (see substantial). Related: Insubstantially.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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