Definition of substance in English:


Syllabification: sub·stance
Pronunciation: /ˈsəbstəns


  • 1A particular kind of matter with uniform properties: a steel tube coated with a waxy substance
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    • Well, soap is a unique substance of potassium fatty acid salts, produced through a chemical reaction called saponification.
    • Hydrochloric acid is a corrosive substance, as such it can be used to clean metal surfaces.
    • The only non-sugar sweetener at present licensed for use in most countries is saccharin, a synthetic substance made from coal tar.
  • 1.1An intoxicating, stimulating, or narcotic chemical or drug, especially an illegal one.
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    • He is now being charged with the illegal purchase of narcotic substances.
    • The Navajo Nation Council passed a law making methamphetamine an illegal substance on the reservation last month.
    • The drugs used can be intoxicating or illegal substances, or some sort of hypnotic drug.
  • 2The real physical matter of which a person or thing consists and which has a tangible, solid presence: proteins compose much of the actual substance of the body
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    • In particular, he believed the body was made of physical substance extended in space while the mind or soul was non-physical and not extended.
    • Or is it that your idea of perfection is such that the less actual substance on a body, the better?
    • The Red Balloon was now big and round and felt more alive, now he had substance, a hollow physical body.
    solidity, body, corporeality; density, mass, weight, shape, structure
  • 2.1The quality of having a solid basis in reality or fact: the claim has no substance
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    • A great deal of deception concerns form or opinions - not substance or facts.
    • We should not make cheap heroes of people in opposition by accident or opportunism, but we should seek out the fact and substance in all opinions expressed.
    • There seems no reason to deny that the history of the West is in fact and substance different from that of other regions.
  • 2.2The quality of being dependable or stable: some were inclined to knock her for her lack of substance
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    • While I thought he was charming, I thought he lacked substance; most viewers apparently thought he exuded leadership.
    • Campbell made his maiden speech to the lobby group's recent annual dinner, appearing a little dour and uncertain as he gave the vote of thanks, but friends say this should not be read as a lack of substance.
    • And the last two presidential elections, the reason why we lost, was a lack of substance.
    character, backbone, mettle
  • 3The quality of being important, valid, or significant: he had yet to accomplish anything of substance
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    • Even in church-related colleges, many wondered whether denominational affiliation signified anything of substance.
    • I have no inspiration or inclination to write anything with any substance at the moment.
    • So Parliament must have intended that the part of the house, in order to be material, would be of sufficient substance or significance to have an effect of some kind.
  • 3.1The most important or essential part of something; the real or essential meaning: the substance of the treaty
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    • As far as possible, the essential meaning or substance of each oath, and the formality and solemnity of the oaths, are retained.
    • Sometimes the humour and observations are crude and sexist, but to focus on these entries is to ignore the political substance of what is on offer.
    • Regardless of how anyone surrounds the concept, racial profiling boiled down to its essential substance is racism.
    meaningfulness, significance, importance, import, validity, foundation
    formal moment
  • 3.2The subject matter of a text, speech, or work of art, especially as contrasted with the form or style in which it is presented.
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    • Appearance should be balanced with content, style with substance, the medium with the message.
    • The chief criticism of his speech was not its style but its substance.
    • But the triumph of style over substance is always subject to the law of diminishing returns.
    content, subject matter, theme, message, essence
  • 3.3Wealth and possessions: a woman of substance
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    • By the time he believes his eyes are beginning to fail, he considers himself a man of wealth and substance.
    • In the later nineteenth century a full figure had been a mark of beauty for woman and a sign of health, wealth, and substance for men.
    • He came across as someone who knew who he was and was comfortable with himself - a strong, centred man of substance.
  • 3.4 Philosophy The essential nature underlying phenomena, which is subject to changes and accidents.
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    • Account allowed the immaterial substance to have a nature over and above the kinds of state we would regard as mental.
    • At the same time, an attribute is so called because the intellect attributes a certain nature to substance.
    • All substance of whatever nature is reducible to one or other of nine different kinds: earth, water, fire, air, ether, space, time, self, and mind.


in substance

Essentially: basic rights are equivalent in substance to human rights
More example sentences
  • Such restrictions cannot however be regarded as equivalent in substance to a prohibition on manufacture and marketing.
  • This can be illustrated briefly with references to two examples that are very different in substance but identical in principle.
  • People in various agencies who have reviewed the draft confirmed that it matched the final report in substance.


Middle English (denoting the essential nature of something): from Old French, from Latin substantia 'being, essence', from substant- 'standing firm', from the verb substare.

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