from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun That which has mass and occupies space; matter.
  • noun A material of a particular kind or constitution.
  • noun A drug, chemical, or other material (such as glue) that one is dependent on or uses habitually and that is often illegal or subject to government regulation.
  • noun The most important part or idea of what is said or written; the essence or gist.
  • noun That which is real or practical in quality or character; practical value.
  • noun Significance or importance.
  • noun Density; body.
  • noun Material possessions; goods; wealth.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To furnish with substance or property; enrich.
  • noun That which exists by itself, and in which accidents inhere; that which receives modifications, and is not itself a mode; that which corresponds, in the reality of things, to the subject in logic.
  • noun The real or essential part; the essence.
  • noun In theology, the divine being or essence, common to the three persons of the Trinity.
  • noun The character of being a substance, in sense 1; substantiality.
  • noun The meaning expressed by any speech or writing, or the purport of any action, as contradistinguished from the mode of expression or performance.
  • noun Substantiation; that which establishes or gives firm support.
  • noun Any particular kind of corporeal matter; stuff; material; part; body: specifically, a chemical species.
  • noun Wealth; means; good estate: as, a man of substance.
  • noun Importance.
  • noun The main part; the majority.
  • noun Synonyms Pith, gist, soul.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To furnish or endow with substance; to supply property to; to make rich.
  • noun That which underlies all outward manifestations; substratum; the permanent subject or cause of phenomena, whether material or spiritual; that in which properties inhere; that which is real, in distinction from that which is apparent; the abiding part of any existence, in distinction from any accident; that which constitutes anything what it is; real or existing essence.
  • noun The most important element in any existence; the characteristic and essential components of anything; the main part; essential import; purport.
  • noun Body; matter; material of which a thing is made; hence, substantiality; solidity; firmness
  • noun Material possessions; estate; property; resources.
  • noun (Theol.) Same as Hypostasis, 2.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Physical matter; material.
  • noun The essential part of anything; the most vital part.
  • noun Considerable wealth or resources.
  • noun Drugs (illegal narcotics)

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun what a communication that is about something is about
  • noun the choicest or most essential or most vital part of some idea or experience
  • noun considerable capital (wealth or income)
  • noun a particular kind or species of matter with uniform properties
  • noun material of a particular kind or constitution
  • noun the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists
  • noun the idea that is intended


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin substantia, from substāns, substant-, present participle of substāre, to be present : sub-, sub- + stāre, to stand; see stā- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French substance, from Latin substantia ("substance, essence"), from substāns, present active participle of substō ("exist; literally, stand under"), from sub + stō ("stand").


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  • Between cells there is a greater or less amount of a homogeneous substance -- the _intercellular substance_.

    The World's Greatest Books — Volume 15 — Science Various 1909

  • _, (1) That the Deity created the substance of these shapes and forms from _Nothing_; or else (2) that he created them out of _his own substance_ -- out of Himself, in fact.

    A Series of Lessons in Gnani Yoga William Walker Atkinson 1897

  • It frequently happens that the contortions or displacements due to motion are seen to affect a single line belonging to a particular substance, while the other lines of _that same substance_ remain imperturbable.

    A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century Fourth Edition 1874

  • Beneath the endless diversity of the universe, of existence and action, there must be a principle of unity; below all fleeting appearances there must be a permanent substance; beyond this everlasting flow and change, this beginning and ending of finite existence, there must be an _eternal being_, the source and cause of all we see and know, _What is that principle of unity, that permanent substance_, or principle, or being?

    Christianity and Greek Philosophy or, the relation between spontaneous and reflective thought in Greece and the positive teaching of Christ and His Apostles 1852

  • They prove, too, that this is not merely true with one substance, as water, but generally with all electrolytic bodies; and, further, that the results obtained with any _one substance_ do not merely agree amongst themselves, but also with those obtained from _other substances_, the whole combining together into _one series of definite electro-chemical actions_ (505.).

    Experimental Researches in Electricity, Volume 1 Michael Faraday 1829

  • And for precisely the same reason, when we find another class of properties and powers existing in certain beings, which are totally different from those belonging to mere material substances, -- incapable not only of being identified with them, but also of being accounted for by means of them, -- we are equally warranted in ascribing these properties to a _substance_, and in affirming that this substance, of which we know nothing except through its properties, is radically different from "matter."

    Modern Atheism under its forms of Pantheism, Materialism, Secularism, Development, and Natural Laws James Buchanan 1837

  • It has been said by our opponents, that if we found merely on the acknowledged difference between two sets of properties or phenomena, while we admit that the substance or substratum is in itself entirely unknown to us, or known only through the medium of the properties to which we refer, -- then the dispute becomes a purely _verbal_ one, and can amount to nothing more than this, whether a _substance_ of whose essence we are entirely ignorant should be called by the name of "matter" or by the name of "spirit."

    Modern Atheism under its forms of Pantheism, Materialism, Secularism, Development, and Natural Laws James Buchanan 1837

  • a finer substance, and our body is rebuilt and fashioned from the indestructible _substance_ of the Universe.

    Freedom Talks No. II Julia Seton

  • Lab Rat tagged me with the "blogging with substance" meme, which I think constitutes a tagging FAIL since I would hesitate to use the term substance as a ...

    NSF budget GamesWithWords 2010

  • Lab Rat tagged me with the "blogging with substance" meme, which I think constitutes a tagging FAIL since I would hesitate to use the term substance as a ...

    Sell off Harvard Medical School! GamesWithWords 2010


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  • Substantiality is inversely proportional to ponderability (S = 1/P). See "Physics and Yoga" comment under yoga.

    July 1, 2008