Definition of substitute in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsʌbstɪtjuːt/


1A person or thing acting or serving in place of another: soya milk is used as a substitute for dairy milk
More example sentences
  • There is no substitute for immediate political intervention to diffuse this crisis.
  • Real-time data informing the passenger of poor service availability is no substitute for improved service availability.
  • No substitute for experience exists, though, and I certainly will not make the same mistake again.
replacement, deputy, relief, proxy, reserve, surrogate, cover, fill-in, stand-in, standby, locum, locum tenens, understudy, stopgap, alternative, ancillary
informal sub
North American informal pinch-hitter
1.1A person or thing that becomes the object of love or another emotion which is deprived of its natural outlet: a father substitute
More example sentences
  • The instructor had been an older man and someone that Carl had seen as a father figure, a substitute to fill part of a missing piece of his life.
  • Before World War II, the single mother remained within her family circle, where a grandfather or uncle could become a substitute father.
  • Victorio is dispassionate and controlling as the substitute father figure.
2A sports player nominated as eligible to replace another after a match has begun: Stewart was the Rovers substitute
More example sentences
  • Each team will comprise of 5 players and two substitutes and games begin at 9.30 am prompt.
  • Parsley again goes into a cup match without a substitute goalkeeper.
  • On an earlier occasion, I suggested that if a player is injured and unable to take part, a substitute should replace the injured man and take part in the game without any restrictions whatsoever.
3 Scots Law A deputy: a sheriff substitute
More example sentences
  • He added that the arrangement they had made for a substitute was without prejudice to his rights and remedies following rejection.
  • Secondly, because there are many motorists who lack the inclination or the ready cash to hire a substitute on the chance of recovering reimbursement from the defendant's insurers.
  • Of course, if the claimant has hired a substitute there should be no loss of profit.


[with object]
1Use or add in place of: dried rosemary can be substituted for the fresh herb
More example sentences
  • Plastic mesh can be substituted for the wire mesh.
  • The stem bark yields quality fibre that may be substituted for jute, but is stated to be of no advantage over jute.
  • It could also save the lives of laboratory mice because chicken eggs and embryos share many genes and biochemical pathways with mammals, so they can be substituted for live animals in experiments.
exchange, use as a replacement, switch;
replace with, use instead of, use as an alternative to, use in place of, use in preference to;
North American  trade
informal swap
1.1 [no object] Act or serve as a substitute: I found someone to substitute for me
More example sentences
  • Bananas are a good alternative to potatoes as a source of potassium, and citrus fruits can substitute for broccoli to cover vitamin C requirements.
  • Unmanned air surface and undersea vehicles can substitute for the loss of a number of ships, but not for all of them.
  • Insurers have guaranteed schools that non-teaching staff employed to patrol school property or to substitute for staff on uncertified sick leave will be covered.
1.2Replace (someone or something) with another: customs officers substituted the drugs with another substance this was substituted by a new clause
More example sentences
  • Just as well I did, too, because a clerical error had substituted a different model than the one I chose.
  • The next day I tell Mike I will look at the photos and try to identify them if they will substitute different photos for any that depict Jamal.
  • These are merely guidelines; substitute different grains, fruits and nuts as you wish.
1.3 Chemistry Replace (an atom or group in a molecule, especially a hydrogen atom) with another: three of the hydrogen atoms of the methane molecule have been substituted by chlorine, bromine or iodine atoms
More example sentences
  • The presence of electron-donating amino or substituted amino groups in a molecule generally makes it a good electron donor.
  • In anaerobic environments, some bacteria are able to substitute metal ions for molecular oxygen in the process of respiration.
  • At the second and third carbon atoms, instead of a full complement of hydrogens, each carbon atom would have a methyl group substituting one of the carbons.
1.4 (as adjective substituted) Chemistry (Of a compound) in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by other atoms or groups: a substituted terpenoid
More example sentences
  • For example, if the longest chain were found to be five carbon atoms, then the compound would be identified as a substituted pentane.
  • The side chains of the substituted residues easily accommodate in the dimer interlace.
  • One possibility is to dissolve the spent fuel in an ionic liquid, such as a substituted pyridinium nitrate, then separate out components of the fuel in solution.
2Replace (a sports player) with a substitute during a match: he was substituted eleven minutes from time
More example sentences
  • The Bradford man was able to continue but the Town player had to be substituted.
  • And on a night when nothing went right for the Shakers, an assistant even managed to substitute the wrong player.
  • Solid depth means the Cowboys can substitute three players at a time and remain strong.


Traditionally, the verb substitute is followed by for and means ‘put someone or something in place of another’, as in she substituted the fake vase for the real one. From the late 17th century substitute has also been used to mean ‘replace someone or something with something else’, as in she substituted the real vase with the fake one. This can be confusing, since the two sentences shown above mean the same thing, yet the object of the verb and the object of the preposition have swapped positions. Despite the potential confusion, the second, newer use is well established, especially in some scientific contexts and in sport ( the top scorer was substituted with almost half an hour still to play), and is now generally regarded as part of normal standard English.



Pronunciation: /sʌbstɪtjuːtəˈbɪlɪti/
Example sentences
  • The lower the degree of substitutability, the greater the risk of harm caused by committed-use contracts.
  • Sappho moves towards the abstract by employing the substitutability of things, people, shops.
  • The greater productivity and lack of perfect substitutability for the traditional teaching material gives these materials the potential to substantially enhance learning.


Pronunciation: /ˈsʌbstɪtjuːtəb(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • For example, researchers may wish to develop studies designed to identify reinforcers both within and outside of abusive relationships that have either a substitutable or complementary relationship.
  • The differences may be in features, price, functionality, or anything else human ingenuity can devise. The goal in economic terms is to make a set of similar goods less substitutable for each other.
  • Alternatively, to what degree are racial, citizenship, and gender categories more or less substitutable markers, buttresses reinforcing inequality, used to justify relegation to the lower ranks?


Example sentences
  • Although such a substitutive mode of representation is familiar enough from, for example, museums dealing with twentieth-century history, its effect here is to return attention to the ‘nature’ of the objects as substitutes.
  • They are therefore substitutive, and it is important to study their ‘conditions of presentation’ and ‘the relations of those conditions to our own spatiotemporality’.
  • The pleasures of horror, dependent as they are upon the effects of the repressed, may involve temporary substitutive satisfactions - much like neurotic activity.


Late Middle English (denoting a deputy or delegate): from Latin substitutus 'put in place of', past participle of substituere, based on statuere 'set up'.

  • constitution from Middle English:

    A constitution once referred to a law, as well as to a body of laws or customs. It comes from Latin constituere ‘establish, appoint’ from con- ‘together’ and statuere ‘set up, place’. The latter is a rich source of English words including destitute (Late Middle English) literally ‘placed away’ so forsaken; institute (Middle English) something set up or established; restitution (Middle English) a re-establishing; statue (Middle English) something set up; and substitute (Late Middle English) someone set up instead of another. Prostitute (mid 16th century) comes from Latin prostituere ‘expose publicly, offer for sale’, from pro- ‘before’ and statuere ‘set up, place’.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sub¦sti|tute

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