[ suh-steyn ]
See synonyms for: sustainsustainedsustainingsustains on

verb (used with object)
  1. to support, hold, or bear up from below; bear the weight of, as a structure.

  2. to bear (a burden, charge, etc.).

  1. to undergo, experience, or suffer (injury, loss, etc.); endure without giving way or yielding.

  2. to keep (a person, the mind, the spirits, etc.) from giving way, as under trial or affliction.

  3. to keep up or keep going, as an action or process: to sustain a conversation.

  4. to supply with food, drink, and other necessities of life.

  5. to provide for (an institution or the like) by furnishing means or funds.

  6. to support (a cause or the like) by aid or approval.

  7. to uphold as valid, just, or correct, as a claim or the person making it: The judge sustained the lawyer's objection.

  8. to confirm or corroborate, as a statement: Further investigation sustained my suspicions.

Origin of sustain

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English suste(i)nen, from Anglo-French sustenir, Old French, from Latin sustinēre “to uphold,” equivalent to sus- sus- + -tinēre, combining form of tenēre “to hold”

Other words for sustain

Other words from sustain

  • sus·tain·a·ble, adjective
  • sus·tain·ing·ly, adverb
  • sus·tain·ment, noun
  • non·sus·tain·ing, adjective
  • un·sus·tain·ing, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use sustain in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sustain


/ (səˈsteɪn) /

  1. to hold up under; withstand: to sustain great provocation

  2. to undergo (an injury, loss, etc); suffer: to sustain a broken arm

  1. to maintain or prolong: to sustain a discussion

  2. to support physically from below

  3. to provide for or give support to, esp by supplying necessities: to sustain one's family; to sustain a charity

  4. to keep up the vitality or courage of

  5. to uphold or affirm the justice or validity of: to sustain a decision

  6. to establish the truth of; confirm

  1. music the prolongation of a note, by playing technique or electronics

Origin of sustain

C13: via Old French from Latin sustinēre to hold up, from sub- + tenēre to hold

Derived forms of sustain

  • sustained, adjective
  • sustainedly (səˈsteɪnɪdlɪ), adverb
  • sustaining, adjective
  • sustainingly, adverb
  • sustainment, noun

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