[uhn-suh b-stan-shuh l]


not substantial; having no foundation in fact; fanciful; insubstantial: an unsubstantial argument; unsubstantial hopes.
without material substance: an unsubstantial ghost.
lacking material substance; materially paltry: an unsubstantial dinner of bread and cheese.
lacking strength or solidity; flimsy: an unsubstantial wall of cardboard.

Origin of unsubstantial

late Middle English word dating back to 1425–75; see origin at un-1, substantial
Related formsun·sub·stan·ti·al·i·ty, nounun·sub·stan·tial·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unsubstantial

Contemporary Examples of unsubstantial

Historical Examples of unsubstantial

  • Within a minute afterwards, he was, to all outward appearance, as unsubstantial as ever.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • Were I a fat man I could not bear it, but I am as unsubstantial as they themselves.

  • Scott, in Old Mortality, uses it in the moral sense, "unsubstantial."

    The Proverbs of Scotland

    Alexander Hislop

  • No darkness of the sky, or concentration of unsubstantial vapour.

    The Death Shot

    Mayne Reid

  • That was why the glories were so unsubstantial, and why the dream must end at midnight.

    A Modern Cinderella

    Amanda M. Douglas

British Dictionary definitions for unsubstantial



lacking weight, strength, or firmness
(esp of an argument) of doubtful validity
of no material existence or substance; unreal
Derived Formsunsubstantiality, noununsubstantially, adverb
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 unsubstantial

mid-15c., from un- (1) "not" + substantial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper