means of sustaining life; nourishment.
means of livelihood.
the process of sustaining.
the state of being sustained.

1250–1300; Middle English sustena(u)nce < Anglo-French; Old French sostenance. See sustain, -ance

sustenanceless, adjective
nonsustenance, noun
self-sustenance, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
sustenance (ˈsʌstənəns)
1.  means of sustaining health or life; nourishment
2.  means of maintenance; livelihood
3.  Also: sustention the act or process of sustaining or the quality of being sustained
[C13: from Old French sostenance, from sustenir to sustain]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, "means of living, subsistence, livelihood," from O.Fr. sustenance (Fr. soutenance), from L.L. sustinentia "endurance," from L. sustinens, prp. of sustinere (see sustain). Meaning "action of sustaining life by food" is from late 14c. Sense of "nourishment" is recorded from c.1489.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The larva pierces the spider's tough skin and sucks its blood for sustenance.
Others suckle your scalp to extract your bodily fluids for sustenance.
His pigs get almost all of their sustenance from grazing on greens.
The only pertinent question is what kind of culture fires our imagination and
  provides the sustenance of our daily lives.
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