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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 substance
  • The poor dean and other administrators would be overwhelmed by form regardless of substance.
  • While gaining its moral weight, its content seems to have deteriorated: the form lost its substance.
  • The salient characteristic of some forms of communication is how little of any substance is being communicated, and how poorly.
  • Your letter must be long enough to contain real substance but not so long that it becomes irritating.
  • For another, the practicing bar also demands junior lawyers who know more about the substance of their practice areas.
  • These are people for whom process is paramount and substance is something of a garnish.
  • Possibly superficial and definitely interested in style over substance.
  • The hardest substance in the human body is the white enamel of the teeth.
  • Some thought he used magnets, others said heavy oil or porcelain chips or a substance he found in beehives.
  • Every error is an error of substance, a betrayal of ignorance and inexperience, the academic equivalent of the double dribble.
British Dictionary definitions for substance


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 substance

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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substance 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 substance
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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