See more synonyms for substance on
  1. that of which a thing consists; physical matter or material: form and substance.
  2. a species of matter of definite chemical composition: a chalky substance.
  3. controlled substance.
  4. the subject matter of thought, discourse, study, etc.
  5. the actual matter of a thing, as opposed to the appearance or shadow; reality.
  6. substantial or solid character or quality: claims lacking in substance.
  7. consistency; body: soup without much substance.
  8. the meaning or gist, as of speech or writing.
  9. something that has separate or independent existence.
  10. Philosophy.
    1. something that exists by itself and in which accidents or attributes inhere; that which receives modifications and is not itself a mode; something that is causally active; something that is more than an event.
    2. the essential part of a thing; essence.
    3. a thing considered as a continuing whole.
  11. possessions, means, or wealth: to squander one's substance.
  12. Linguistics. the articulatory or acoustic reality or the perceptual manifestation of a word or other construction (distinguished from form).
  13. a standard of weights for paper.
  1. in substance,
    1. concerning the essentials; substantially.
    2. actually; really: That is in substance how it appeared to me.

Origin of substance

1250–1300; Middle English < Latin substantia substance, essence (literally, that which stands under, i.e., underlies), equivalent to sub- sub- + -stant- (stem of stāns, present participle of stāre to stand) + -ia -ia (see -ance)
Related formssub·stance·less, adjective

Synonym study

1. See matter.

Synonyms for substance

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for substance

Contemporary Examples of substance

Historical Examples of substance

  • Substance of one of Lovelace's letters, of her answer, and of his reply.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • To all appearance, the rock was as firmly fastened as any other portion of the earth's substance.

    Tanglewood Tales

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • You have the wisdom that grasps the substance and lets the shadows flit.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • The substance of a lady's letter, it has been said, always is comprised in the postscript.

  • Till when, I will give you the substance of what I wrote him yesterday.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

British Dictionary definitions for substance


  1. the tangible matter of which a thing consists
  2. a specific type of matter, esp a homogeneous material with a definite composition
  3. the essence, meaning, etc, of a written or spoken thought
  4. solid or meaningful quality
  5. material densitya vacuum has no substance
  6. material possessions or wealtha man of substance
  7. philosophy
    1. the supposed immaterial substratum that can receive modifications and in which attributes and accidents inhere
    2. a thing considered as a continuing whole that survives the changeability of its properties
  8. Christian Science that which is eternal
  9. a euphemistic term for any illegal drug
  10. in substance with regard to the salient points
Derived Formssubstanceless, adjective

Word Origin for substance

C13: via Old French from Latin substantia, from substāre, from sub- + stāre to 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

Word Origin and History for substance

c.1300, "essential nature," from Old French substance (12c.), from Latin substantia "being, essence, material," from substans, present participle of substare "stand firm, be under or present," from sub "up to, under" + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). A loan-translation of Greek hypostasis. Meaning "any kind of corporeal matter" is first attested mid-14c. Sense of "the matter of a study, discourse, etc." first recorded late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

substance in Medicine


  1. That which has mass and occupies space; matter.
  2. A material of a particular kind or constitution.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with substance


see in substance; sum and substance.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.