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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 sustain
  • The water features create an urban habitat that attracts birds and can sustain fish and turtles.
  • It will be impossible to sustain the unequal land distribution as the population increases.
  • If you look at food, food essentially is how people sustain life.
  • Sometimes films get made to mark anniversaries, or celebrate figures important enough to sustain more than one movie.
  • But the more an emerging economy resembles the leaders, the harder it is to sustain the pace.
  • Off course, devolution is favoured by themselves, because it would sustain the financial transfers.
  • Its growth in the past two quarters was too fast to sustain, resulting in a worrisome rise in inflation.
  • He has cash and guns to sustain him, as well as cunning, ruthlessness and do-or-die determination.
  • The party will also have to work harder to sustain the urbanisation that has fuelled the economy.
  • The whole purpose of the ecosystem is to sustain life.
British Dictionary definitions for sustain


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 sustain

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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