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[suh-stey-nuh-buh l] /səˈsteɪ nə bəl/
capable of being supported or upheld, as by having its weight borne from below.
pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse:
sustainable agriculture. Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to overfishing.
able to be maintained or kept going, as an action or process:
a sustainable negotiation between the two countries.
able to be confirmed or upheld:
a sustainable decision.
able to be supported as with the basic necessities or sufficient funds:
a sustainable life.
Origin of sustainable
Related forms
sustainability, noun
nonsustainable, adjective
nonsustainability, noun
unsustainable, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for sustainable
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Niebuhrs inference against a blood connection from Ciceros definition is not sustainable.

    Ancient Society Lewis Henry Morgan
  • This year, we must also do more to support democratic renewal and human rights and sustainable development all around the world.

  • It sounds crazy, and only time will tell whether it proves to be sustainable.

    Makers Cory Doctorow
British Dictionary definitions for sustainable


capable of being sustained
(of economic development, energy sources, etc) capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage: sustainable development
(of economic growth) non-inflationary
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 sustainable

1610s, "bearable," from sustain + -able. Attested from 1845 in the sense "defensible;" from 1965 with the meaning "capable of being continued at a certain level." Sustainable growth is recorded from 1965. Related: Sustainably.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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