Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To keep in existence; maintain.
  • transitive v. To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for.
  • transitive v. To support from below; keep from falling or sinking; prop.
  • transitive v. To support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; encourage.
  • transitive v. To bear up under; withstand: can't sustain the blistering heat.
  • transitive v. To experience or suffer: sustained a fatal injury.
  • transitive v. To affirm the validity of: The judge has sustained the prosecutor's objection.
  • transitive v. To prove or corroborate; confirm.
  • transitive v. To keep up (a joke or assumed role, for example) competently.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A mechanism which can be used to hold a note, as the right pedal on a piano.
  • v. To maintain (something), or keep it in existence.
  • v. To provide for or nourish (something).
  • v. To encourage (something).
  • v. To experience or suffer (an injury, etc.).
  • v. To confirm, prove, or corroborate (something).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To keep from falling; to bear; to uphold; to support.
  • transitive v. Hence, to keep from sinking, as in despondence, or the like; to support.
  • transitive v. To maintain; to keep alive; to support; to subsist; to nourish.
  • transitive v. To aid, comfort, or relieve; to vindicate.
  • transitive v. To endure without failing or yielding; to bear up under.
  • transitive v. To suffer; to bear; to undergo.
  • transitive v. To allow the prosecution of; to admit as valid; to sanction; to continue; not to dismiss or abate.
  • transitive v. To prove; to establish by evidence; to corroborate or confirm; to be conclusive of.
  • n. One who, or that which, upholds or sustains; a sustainer.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To hold up; bear up; uphold; support.
  • To hold suspended; keep from falling or sinking: as, a rope sustains a weight; to sustain one in the water.
  • To keep from sinking in despondency; support.
  • To maintain; keep up; especially, to keep alive; support; subsist; nourish: as, provisions to sustain a family or an army; food insufficient to sustain life.
  • To support in any condition by aid; vindicate, comfort, assist, or relieve; favor.
  • To endure without failing or yielding; bear up against; stand: as, able to sustain a shock.
  • To suffer; have to submit to; bear; undergo.
  • To admit or support as correct or valid; hold as well founded: as, the court sustained the action or suit.
  • To support or maintain; establish by evidence; bear out; prove; confirm; make good; corroborate: as, such facts sustain the statement; the evidence is not sufficient to sustain the charge.
  • In music, of tones, to prolong or hold to full time-value; render in a legato or sostenuto manner.
  • See living.
  • 8 and To sanction, approve, ratify, justify.
  • To sustain one's self; rest for support.
  • To bear; endure; suffer.
  • n. One who or that which upholds; a sustainer.

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

  • v. establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts
  • v. admit as valid
  • v. undergo (as of injuries and illnesses)
  • v. be the physical support of; carry the weight of
  • v. lengthen or extend in duration or space
  • v. provide with nourishment
  • v. supply with necessities and support

Etymologies

Middle English sustenen, from Old French sustenir, from Latin sustinēre : sub-, from below; see sub- + tenēre, to hold.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French sustenir (French: soutenir), from Latin sustineo, from sub- + teneo. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Because the Bush Administration vowed to keep ‘the war’ going, as in sustain combat activities indefinitely, absent any ultimate victory.

    Matthew Yglesias » Obama Still Ending the War

  • Good starts are great, but being able to sustain is important.

    USATODAY.com

  • The "mark of difference" that the lyrical ballads sustain is "that each of them has a worthy purpose."

    Wordsworth’s Balladry: Real Men Wanted

  • And girls were burdens to the mind of John.) "Had I a boy, he would our name sustain,

    Tales

  • She committed herself to securing top international artists to contribute their talents during the course of the year to sustain a kaleidoscope of entertainment for the nation while paying tribute to Mandela.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • And I think it can be something that we can sustain, that is, the idea that every election is important, that not just the presidential elections, but every election is important and helps to shape the future.

    Interview Of The President By American Urban Radio

  • After Gaza, this position is becoming more and more difficult to sustain, which is why those who adopt it are getting more and more desperately strident.

    Window Into Palestine

  • West Coast liberals need to admit that their ideas are too expensive to sustain, which is why California is bankrupt.

    HolyCoast.com

  • I'm personally made deeply uneasy by the RTP campaign, even though I participate in it, because I fear that we as NGOs overexposed ourselves by helping to create a norm we cannot sustain, that is beginning to seem like Xeno's Paradox.

    open Democracy News Analysis - Comments

  • Should we only be eating fish raised in fish farms that use restorative and regenerative practices, which build up the biodiversity of the oceans and restore livings systems, rather than just "sustain" what is currently a very fragile ocean ecosystem?

    Mark Hyman, MD: Wild Fish? Farmed Fish? What Should We Eat?

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