Definition of insubstantial in English:



  • 1Lacking strength and solidity.

    ‘the huts are relatively few and insubstantial’
    ‘insubstantial evidence’
    • ‘Relative to the musical company into which he's been thrust, his vocal melodies are insubstantial and lyrics pretty but vague.’
    • ‘Before this time, uranium mining was insubstantial; the only reason it was mined was to obtain radium for cancer treatment and fluorescent dials.’
    • ‘As one pack of financial cards falls after another, US capitalism will experience a cleansing of the most exposed and insubstantial parts of the financialised economy.’
    • ‘It was his fatuous, smirky tone and insubstantial jibes.’
    • ‘Because thoughts are insubstantial until we bring them into some kind of material reality with speech, writing, art, machines etc.’
    • ‘It amused me to see the insubstantial evidence you had pieced together as your argument against airguns.’
    • ‘Otherwise we get a philosophy that tends to become insubstantial and vaporous.’
    • ‘Readers may safely treat his latest intervention as being what it appears to be: hasty, heated, and insubstantial.’
    • ‘Yet when, outraged at such affront, we stand on our rights and demand redress, we would do well to remember how insubstantial the dignity is on which those rights are based.’
    • ‘But no matter how many more dot.coms go bust, nobody should infer from the fall-out that the engines of the new economy are passing, insubstantial fashions soon to fade.’
    • ‘Contrariwise, juries may convict where the judicial decision-maker would find the evidence insubstantial.’
    • ‘What they almost all had in common was that they cost a lot of money, made you miserable and resulted in staggeringly insubstantial weight losses that were completely negated by your drinking a glass of water.’
    • ‘It's feared a wooden fence separating the two properties was insubstantial, and people standing on the balconies of their new homes would be able to look down on gardens surrounding the Lodge.’
    • ‘Any justification very likely can appear or be made to appear judgmental, discriminatory, unfairly harsh, insubstantial or even anachronistic.’
    • ‘Despite some stalwart work by those at the helm of the second and youth teams, the structures that support them are insubstantial, and the development of the game in the community is patchy at best.’
    • ‘However, the article views the dispute as insubstantial.’
    • ‘So if you think this is a site you're likely to read often and get something out of, we're asking if you can chip in some funds for the not insubstantial costs of launching the new site and getting it on its feet.’
    • ‘Whether you think it's lovely but insubstantial, or lovely and great, will depend in large part on what you expect from greatness.’
    • ‘What has been written is vague and insubstantial.’
    • ‘And so they didn't seem showy and insubstantial, they seemed like real thoughts that had a particular weight.’
    flimsy, slight, light, fragile, breakable, weak, frail, shaky, unstable, wobbly, tottery, rickety, ramshackle, makeshift
    weak, flimsy, feeble, poor, inadequate, insufficient, thin, slight, tenuous, insignificant, inconsequential, unsubstantial, unconvincing, implausible, unsatisfactory, paltry, trifling, trivial, shallow
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Not having physical existence.
      ‘the flickering light made her face seem insubstantial’
      • ‘We who lived in the suburbs of towns that were themselves anonymous and mediocre were exiles from the city's Real: insubstantial wraiths, resigned to our status as non-beings.’
      • ‘The basic unit of classical space is the room, and we should think of it not as a void but as an expansive, albeit insubstantial and invisible, mass.’
      • ‘Scare story: if spirits weren't so frustratingly insubstantial, Ham House could sell 'em by the pound.’
      • ‘She becomes daily more insubstantial, her figure wraithlike.’
      • ‘The figure, in its nakedness, has an almost ghostly, insubstantial quality, a pathetic vulnerability.’
      • ‘Grandma and grandpa were there too, only in like a sort of ghostly insubstantial form.’
      • ‘At times, the book is about as convincing as a fairytale, proffering only light and insubstantial imaginings.’
      • ‘Her illegitimate position has rendered her wraithlike and insubstantial, almost disembodied.’
      • ‘She had never seemed so insubstantial, so illusory.’
      • ‘Motoko can make herself and others invisible, inaudible, insubstantial… you get the idea.’
      • ‘What strangers we meet are wraith-like, insubstantial, as if at a quarter-turn from our reality.’


Early 17th century: from late Latin insubstantialis, from in- not + substantialis (see substantial).