Definition of substantive in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsʌbst(ə)ntɪv/


Pronunciation: /səbˈstantɪv/
1Having a firm basis in reality and so important, meaningful, or considerable: there is no substantive evidence for the efficacy of these drugs
More example sentences
  • But it is important to note that substantive discussions of issues rarely entered into Five Points political contests.
  • Parties are unstable and hard to distinguish on the basis of substantive issues.
  • Some students of the media have developed a notion of the game schema model, where tactics and strategy are now more important than substantive issues.
2Having a separate and independent existence.
Example sentences
  • Nothing has a substantive existence apart from everything else and exists only in the context of everything else.
  • It therefore appeared to be a substantive, independent factor.
2.1(Of a rank or appointment) not acting or temporary; permanent: he earned the rank of Substantive Corporal
More example sentences
  • Temporary promotion to the higher rank is for specified period and limited to one rank higher than the member's substantive rank.
  • In many cases they could not have been appointed to a substantive NHS post.
  • Offices within the Central Intelligence Agency have been very proactive in the expanded use of outside substantive experts to generate and test analytic assumptions.
2.2(Of an enactment, motion, or resolution) made in due form as such; not amended.
Example sentences
  • We believe that before any British troops are involved in military action there should be a substantive motion and a vote in parliament.
  • The substantive motion was then voted on, and carried by a massive majority.
  • Point of order: The honourable member knows that if she wishes to make such statements about another member of this House she should do it by substantive motion.
3(Of law) defining rights and duties, as opposed to giving the procedural rules by which those rights and duties are enforced.
Example sentences
  • The submission there is that one needs primary statutory backing before a power to make procedural rules can affect substantive limitation periods.
  • Each procedural pigeon-hole contains its own rules of substantive law, and it is with great caution that we may argue from what is found in one to what will probably be found in another; each has its own precedents.
  • But judicial comity requires restraint, based on mutual respect not only for the integrity of one another's process, but also for one another's procedural and substantive laws.
4(Of a dye) not needing a mordant.
Example sentences
  • Not all dyes need mordants to help them adhere to fabric. If they need no mordants, such as lichens and walnut hulls, they are called substantive dyes.


(also noun substantive) Grammar , dated A noun.
Example sentences
  • All entities, substantives, adverbs, sentences are patiently, and joyously, called into question.
  • In short, it rejected the idea that Father, Son, and Spirit are either merely adjectives or full substantives.
  • Nathan said only enough to indicate that he was using language with an unaccustomed force and intelligence - but mildly annoying, as if all substantives fell away, leaving only the prepositions.



Pronunciation: /səbˌstanˈtʌɪv(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • Absolute theories are called ‘substantival’ or ‘substantial’ if they require spacetime to be a substance.
  • Here, however, its position appears to suggest that it is a substantival adjective qualifying ‘inhibition’.
  • It is clear that we must proceed with great care if we are to employ this substantival terminology.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'having an independent existence'): from Old French substantif, -ive or late Latin substantivus, from substantia 'essence' (see substance).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sub|stan¦tive

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.