[suhb-stuh n-tiv]
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  1. Grammar.
    1. pertaining to substantives.
    2. used in a sentence like a noun: a substantive adjective.
    3. expressing existence: “to be” is a substantive verb.
  2. having independent existence; independent.
  3. belonging to the real nature or essential part of a thing; essential.
  4. real or actual.
  5. of considerable amount or quantity.
  6. possessing substance; having practical importance, value, or effect: substantive issues under discussion.
  7. Law. pertaining to the rules of right which courts are called on to apply, as distinguished from rules of procedure (opposed to adjective).
  8. (of dye colors) attaching directly to the material without the aid of a mordant (opposed to adjective).

Origin of substantive

1350–1400; Middle English < Late Latin substantīvus, equivalent to Latin substant(ia) substance + -īvus -ive
Related formssub·stan·tive·ly, adverbsub·stan·tive·ness, nounnon·sub·stan·tive, adjectivenon·sub·stan·tive·ly, adverbnon·sub·stan·tive·ness, nounun·sub·stan·tive, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of substantive

British Dictionary definitions for substantive


  1. grammar a noun or pronoun used in place of a noun
  1. of, relating to, containing, or being the essential element of a thing
  2. having independent function, resources, or existence
  3. of substantial quantity
  4. solid in foundation or basis
  5. grammar denoting, relating to, or standing in place of a noun
  6. (səbˈstæntɪv) relating to the essential legal principles administered by the courts, as opposed to practice and procedureCompare adjective (def. 3)
  7. (səbˈstæntɪv) (of a dye or colour) staining the material directly without use of a mordant
Abbreviation: s, sb, subst
Derived Formssubstantival (ˌsʌbstənˈtaɪvəl), adjectivesubstantivally, adverbsubstantively, adverbsubstantiveness, noun

Word Origin for substantive

C15: from Late Latin substantīvus, from Latin substāre to stand beneath; see substance
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 substantive

late 15c., "standing by itself," from Old French substantif, from Late Latin substantivum, neuter of Latin substantivus "of substance or being," from substantia (see substance). The grammatical term (late 14c.) was introduced by the French to denote the noun in contradistinction to the adjective, from Latin nomen substantivum "name or word of substance."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper