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[suh b-sist] /səbˈsɪst/
verb (used without object)
to exist; continue in existence.
to remain alive; live, as on food, resources, etc.
to have existence in, or by reason of, something.
to reside, lie, or consist (usually followed by in).
  1. to have timeless or abstract existence, as a number, relation, etc.
  2. to have existence, especially independent existence.
verb (used with object)
to provide sustenance or support for; maintain.
Origin of subsist
1540-50; < Latin subsistere to remain, equivalent to sub- sub- + sistere to stand, make stand; see stand
Related forms
subsistingly, adverb
presubsist, verb (used without object)
self-subsisting, adjective
supersubsist, verb (used without object)
Can be confused
subside, subsist. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for subsist
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You ask me why, tho' ill at ease Within this region I subsist?

  • Her friendly relations with him continued to subsist even after his marriage.

    A Zola Dictionary J. G. Patterson
  • How,” Parson Lute demanded, with a start, “does she––ah––subsist?

  • Those of us who are alive in the morning will subsist upon the enemy.

    Standish of Standish

    Jane G. Austin
  • It is said that a person can subsist longer upon them than upon any other kind.

    Old Mackinaw W. P. Strickland.
  • It is the property of five Tartar families, who subsist largely on its fruit.

  • And our hard-hearted rulers, with all their pride, can they subsist without us?

    Alroy Benjamin Disraeli
British Dictionary definitions for subsist


verb (mainly intransitive)
(often foll by on) to be sustained; manage to live: to subsist on milk
to continue in existence
(foll by in) to lie or reside by virtue (of); consist
  1. to exist as a concept or relation rather than a fact
  2. to be conceivable
(transitive) (obsolete) to provide with support
Derived Forms
subsistent, adjective
subsister, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin subsistere to stand firm, from sub- up + sistere to make a 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 subsist

1540s, "to exist," from Latin subsistere "to stand still or firm," (see subsistence). Meaning "to support oneself" (in a certain way) is from 1640s. Related: Subsisted; subsisting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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