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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does substitute mean?

A substitute is someone or something that takes the place of another person or thing. As a verb, to substitute means to make such a switch.

Substitute is used in a variety of contexts, but it is perhaps most commonly associated with substitute teachers and players in team sports who replace a player in the game. In both cases, the word is often shortened as sub.

Example: Mr. Jones was sick today so we had a substitute.

Where does substitute come from?

The first records of substitute come from the 1300s. It comes from the Latin word substitūtus, from the verb substituere, meaning “to put in place of.”

Substitute teachers replace the regular teacher when they are unable to teach, typically because they are sick. A substitute usually only serves in that role for a day or two, but there are also long-term substitutes who replace a teacher for longer periods of time, such as when they’re on maternity leave.

In sports, a substitute is a player who replaces a player who is currently playing. This can be done for a number of reasons. In soccer (football), substitutes are often used late in a game to replace players who are tired. In basketball, subs are used throughout the game to give players a break. Substitute players are often said to come from the bench, which is a way of referring to the place where players sit when they are not playing, as well as a way to refer to the substitute players collectively.

Substitute is used in many other contexts as both a noun and a verb. In grammar, substitute is used as a noun to refer to a word that serves as a particular kind of replacement. In chemistry, to substitute is to replace one or more elements or groups in a molecule. People often refer to artificial sweeteners as sugar substitutes.

Substitute is synonymous with replacement, and it can appear in phrases and expressions that discuss replacing things, as in There is no substitute for hard work.

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What are some other forms related to substitute?

  • substitution (noun)
  • sub (shortened form)

What are some synonyms for substitute?

What are some words that share a root or word element with substitute

What are some words that often get used in discussing substitute?

How is substitute used in real life?

Substitute is used in many different contexts. It’s most commonly used in reference to substitute teachers and substitutes on sports teams.



Try using substitute!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of substitute?

A. fill-in
B. stand-in
C. alternate
D. primary

British Dictionary definitions for substitute

/ (ˈsʌbstɪˌtjuːt) /



substitutable, adjectivesubstitutability, noun
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
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