[suhb-sti-toot, -tyoot]
  1. a person or thing acting or serving in place of another.
  2. (formerly) a person who, for payment, served in an army or navy in the place of a conscript.
  3. Grammar. a word that functions as a replacement for any member of a class of words or constructions, as do in He doesn't know but I do.
verb (used with object), sub·sti·tut·ed, sub·sti·tut·ing.
  1. to put (a person or thing) in the place of another.
  2. to take the place of; replace.
  3. Chemistry. to replace (one or more elements or groups in a compound) by other elements or groups.
verb (used without object), sub·sti·tut·ed, sub·sti·tut·ing.
  1. to act as a substitute.
  1. of or relating to a substitute or substitutes.
  2. composed of substitutes.

Origin of substitute

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin substitūtus (past participle of substituere to put in place of), equivalent to sub- sub- + -stitū-, combining form of statū-, past participle stem of statuere (see substituent) + -tus past participle suffix
Related formssub·sti·tut·a·ble, adjectivesub·sti·tut·a·bil·i·ty, nounsub·sti·tut·er, nounsub·sti·tut·ing·ly, adverbsub·sti·tu·tion, nounsub·sti·tu·tion·al, sub·sti·tu·tion·ar·y [suhb-sti-too-shuh-ner-ee, -tyoo-] /ˌsʌb stɪˈtu ʃəˌnɛr i, -ˈtyu-/, adjectivesub·sti·tu·tion·al·ly, adverbin·ter·sub·sti·tut·a·bil·i·ty, nounin·ter·sub·sti·tut·a·ble, adjectivein·ter·sub·sti·tu·tion, nounnon·sub·sti·tut·ed, adjectivenon·sub·sti·tu·tion, nounnon·sub·sti·tu·tion·al, adjectivenon·sub·sti·tu·tion·al·ly, adverbnon·sub·sti·tu·tion·ar·y, adjectivepre·sub·sti·tute, verb (used with object), pre·sub·sti·tut·ed, pre·sub·sti·tut·ing.pre·sub·sti·tu·tion, nounpro·sub·sti·tu·tion, adjectiveun·sub·sti·tut·ed, adjective

Synonyms for substitute Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for intersubstitutability


  1. (often foll by for) to serve or cause to serve in place of another person or thing
  2. chem to replace (an atom or group in a molecule) with (another atom or group)
  3. logic maths to replace (one expression) by (another) in the context of a third, as replacing x + y for x in 3 x = k gives 3 x + 3 y = k
    1. a person or thing that serves in place of another, such as a player in a game who takes the place of an injured colleague
    2. (as modifier)a substitute goalkeeper Often shortened to: sub
  1. grammar another name for pro-form
  2. Canadian another name for supply teacher
  3. nautical another word for repeater (def. 5)
  4. (formerly) a person paid to replace another due for military service
Derived Formssubstitutable, adjectivesubstitutability, noun

Word Origin for substitute

C16: from Latin substituere, from sub- in place of + statuere to set up


Substitute is sometimes wrongly used where replace is meant: he replaced (not substituted) the worn tyre with a new one
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 intersubstitutability



early 15c. in transitive sense, 1888 as intransitive, from Latin substitutus, past participle of substituere (see substitution). Related: Substituted; substituting.



"one who acts in place of another," early 15c., from Old French substitute and directly from Latin substitutus, past participle of substituere (see substitution). Team sports sense is from 1849.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper