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[uhn-suh b-stan-shuh l] /ˌʌn səbˈstæn ʃəl/
not substantial; having no foundation in fact; fanciful; insubstantial:
an unsubstantial argument; unsubstantial hopes.
without material substance:
an unsubstantial ghost.
lacking material substance; materially paltry:
an unsubstantial dinner of bread and cheese.
lacking strength or solidity; flimsy:
an unsubstantial wall of cardboard.
Origin of unsubstantial
late Middle English
late Middle English word dating back to 1425-75; See origin at un-1, substantial
Related forms
unsubstantiality, noun
unsubstantially, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for unsubstantial
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Within a minute afterwards, he was, to all outward appearance, as unsubstantial as ever.

    A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
  • Were I a fat man I could not bear it, but I am as unsubstantial as they themselves.

  • Scott, in Old Mortality, uses it in the moral sense, "unsubstantial."

    The Proverbs of Scotland Alexander Hislop
  • No darkness of the sky, or concentration of unsubstantial vapour.

    The Death Shot Mayne Reid
  • That was why the glories were so unsubstantial, and why the dream must end at midnight.

    A Modern Cinderella Amanda M. Douglas
  • The smoke gave them a wavering aspect as though their shapes were unsubstantial.

    Blackbeard: Buccaneer Ralph D. Paine
  • For now the triumph faded away, the unsubstantial pageant was no more.

    Double Harness Anthony Hope
  • Men were dissatisfied with the unsubstantial dream of Platonist and Stoic.

  • All the fishing I did that year was in the prolific but unsubstantial waters of dreamland.

    The Copperhead Harold Frederic
British Dictionary definitions for unsubstantial


lacking weight, strength, or firmness
(esp of an argument) of doubtful validity
of no material existence or substance; unreal
Derived Forms
unsubstantiality, noun
unsubstantially, 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 unsubstantial

mid-15c., from un- (1) "not" + substantial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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