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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
From the Late Latin word insubstantiālis, dating back to 1600-10. See in-3, substantial
Related forms
insubstantiality, noun
insubstantially, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for insubstantial
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There were things, vague and insubstantial, which he could not understand.

    The Shadow Arthur Stringer
  • From it rose the towers and high-peaked roofs of the city, insubstantial as a dream.

    The Path of the King John Buchan
  • So feeble and insubstantial did he feel himself that he repeated the word aloud.

    Night and Day Virginia Woolf
  • The beyond is vague and insubstantial, but it is instinct with life and purpose.

    Nature Mysticism J. Edward Mercer
  • Shuddering, insubstantial, but luminously apparent, I stood there before them.

  • She married the Marquis of Vaccarone, a babbling Neapolitan, insubstantial and light.

    Csar or Nothing Po Baroja Baroja
  • 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
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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