[in-suh b-stan-shuh l]


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 formsin·sub·stan·ti·al·i·ty, nounin·sub·stan·tial·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for insubstantial

Contemporary Examples of insubstantial

Historical Examples of insubstantial

  • 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.

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for insubstantial



not substantial; flimsy, tenuous, or slight
imaginary; unreal
Derived Formsinsubstantiality, nouninsubstantially, 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

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