Definition of substance in English:



  • 1A particular kind of matter with uniform properties.

    ‘a steel tube coated with a waxy substance’
    • ‘Gas hydrate is a crystalline substance composed of gas and water.’
    • ‘The paint is based on a toxic substance called isocyanates which gives off hazardous fumes.’
    • ‘Well, soap is a unique substance of potassium fatty acid salts, produced through a chemical reaction called saponification.’
    • ‘Water is the only substance that has these properties.’
    • ‘Apart from a hefty dose of vitamin C, lemons also offer a substance called limonene which is believed to have anti-cancer properties.’
    • ‘Gold can form soluble compounds with these substances and so the fluids will leach it out of rocks.’
    • ‘A liquid crystal is a substance that apparently falls between the solid and liquid states.’
    • ‘Hydrogen bonding, which joins water molecule to water molecule, is responsible for other properties that make water a unique substance.’
    • ‘Water is a strange substance with unusual properties due solely to tiny charges surrounding each water molecule.’
    • ‘A Leeds University professor has answered one of the big questions raised by the discovery that cooking food creates a poisonous substance called acrylamide.’
    • ‘An alloy is a substance with metallic properties that is composed of a mixture of two or more elements.’
    • ‘This product has a high concentration of hyaluronic acid, a substance that attracts water molecules.’
    • ‘This substance is known today as ammonium carbonate.’
    • ‘Hydrochloric acid is a corrosive substance, as such it can be used to clean metal surfaces.’
    • ‘The stomach produces juices containing a powerful substance called hydrochloric acid.’
    • ‘Dry soil conditions would also tend to increase the concentration of any toxic substances present in soil water.’
    • ‘The ground floor of a Surbiton home was completely gutted by arsonists who sprayed a flammable substance inside the property before setting it alight.’
    • ‘Lignin, an organic substance found in wood, is another component that is carefully tested.’
    • ‘The only non-sugar sweetener at present licensed for use in most countries is saccharin, a synthetic substance made from coal tar.’
    • ‘This reaction is assisted or catalyzed by the hydrogen ion, a substance plentiful in acid (low pH) solutions such as wines.’
    material, matter, stuff, medium, fabric
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    1. 1.1 An intoxicating, stimulating, or narcotic chemical or drug, especially an illegal one.
      ‘he was suspended for using a banned substance’
      as modifier ‘substance abuse’
      • ‘Baxter tested positive for the banned substance methamphetamine when a nanogram of the chemical was detected in his urine sample.’
      • ‘And basically I can see no reason why cannabis should remain an illegal substance.’
      • ‘His use or indeed abuse of what is after all an illegal substance not only in sporting terms but in terms of the laws of the land in which he lives, sets a quite appalling example to those youngsters.’
      • ‘He is now being charged with the illegal purchase of narcotic substances.’
      • ‘Methadone is the substance most frequently prescribed in substitution treatment.’
      • ‘Now, everyone arrested in possession of an illegal substance is offered the help of a trained drugs counsellor.’
      • ‘Often the abuse of barbiturates and benzodiazepines occurs in conjunction with the abuse of another substance or drug, such as alcohol or cocaine.’
      • ‘THC is considered a hallucinogenic substance that is mild when compared by weight to LSD.’
      • ‘Robbie said that he would still be a drug user if the substances did not cause him to put on weight.’
      • ‘Andro is banned as an illegal substance in Canada, but in the United States can be easily obtained as a dietary supplement.’
      • ‘There they found traces of four banned substances, including heroin and cocaine.’
      • ‘We told police that we had seen people smoking illegal substances, and they told us they would investigate.’
      • ‘The drugs used can be intoxicating or illegal substances, or some sort of hypnotic drug.’
      • ‘We humans are not alone in our addiction to intoxicating substances.’
      • ‘Surely they are only trying to discourage people from trying what is, after all, an illegal substance?’
      • ‘Cocaine, the last time I checked, was an illegal substance in the U.S. as well as in Major League Baseball.’
      • ‘GHB is a known substance of abuse and continues to pose serious risks for users.’
      • ‘His first sample was found to contain the banned substance methamphetamine, popularly known as the recreational drug meth - or, ironically, ice.’
      • ‘The Navajo Nation Council passed a law making methamphetamine an illegal substance on the reservation last month.’
      • ‘I also know of one instance where cannabis resin was being cut with an addictive substance to ensure that the users all came back to the same vendor and did not go else where.’
      narcotic, stimulant, hallucinogen, addictive drug, recreational drug, illegal drug
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  • 2The real physical matter of which a person or thing consists and which has a tangible, solid presence.

    ‘proteins compose much of the actual substance of the body’
    • ‘The Red Balloon was now big and round and felt more alive, now he had substance, a hollow physical body.’
    • ‘There is a Real out there, and it begins in our bodies, and extends to the physical substance of the universe and spirit itself - it's all made of the same stuff.’
    • ‘Numerology teaches that the entire Universe, both thoughts or ideas and physical substance is a manifestation of positive and negative forces.’
    • ‘Something, which is immaterial, has no physical substance and hence does not exist.’
    • ‘In particular, he believed the body was made of physical substance extended in space while the mind or soul was non-physical and not extended.’
    • ‘Those are what comprise the physical substance of matter.’
    • ‘You've see this before: they're somehow able to generate holographic images that have physical substance.’
    • ‘He lifted a trembling hand and found that he could touch her face, although they both lacked physical substance.’
    • ‘The physical substance is affected, with emaciation, dehydration and tissue degeneration, and the organs cease to function properly.’
    • ‘Or is it that your idea of perfection is such that the less actual substance on a body, the better?’
    solidity, body, corporeality, reality, actuality, materiality, concreteness, tangibility
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    1. 2.1 The most important or essential part of something; the real or essential meaning.
      ‘the substance of the Maastricht Treaty’
      • ‘This adds to the progressive appreciation of learning how to change and grow one step at a time and allows the reader to absorb the meaning and substance of each chapter.’
      • ‘Sometimes the humour and observations are crude and sexist, but to focus on these entries is to ignore the political substance of what is on offer.’
      • ‘As far as possible, the essential meaning or substance of each oath, and the formality and solemnity of the oaths, are retained.’
      • ‘Mr. Stinnett's response to all of these criticisms has been to simply ignore their substance.’
      • ‘Regardless of how anyone surrounds the concept, racial profiling boiled down to its essential substance is racism.’
      meaningfulness, significance, importance, import, moment, power, soundness, validity, content, pith, marrow, core
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    2. 2.2 The subject matter of a text, speech, or work of art, especially as contrasted with the form or style in which it is presented.
      ‘the substance of his book was the history of allegorical love literature’
      mass noun ‘the movie is a triumph of style over substance’
      • ‘But the triumph of style over substance is always subject to the law of diminishing returns.’
      • ‘The most notable point wasn't in either's style or substance, but in the theme: the two men weren't talking about the same subject at all.’
      • ‘I point out that, at times, form is just as important as substance.’
      • ‘This could lead the innocent to conclude that the book is all style and no substance.’
      • ‘The chief criticism of his speech was not its style but its substance.’
      • ‘This recalls Oscar Wilde's aphorism that in matters of great import, style is always more important than substance.’
      • ‘However, with a distinctive conservative voice, high production values and a modest display of investigative skills, this is a magazine of both style and substance.’
      • ‘It shows how design has transformed life over the past 100 years and it encapsulates the contrasting philosophies of style versus substance that is causing such heat and fury.’
      • ‘I'm not cynical enough to call this a triumph of style over substance, I just think it's a good demonstration of the need to ensure that if you truly believe in something, you have to present it well.’
      • ‘He believes substance is much more important than style.’
      • ‘Russell is an American creative writing teacher and, at the risk of sounding like a killjoy, her book could do with less ‘style’ and more substance.’
      • ‘Uncertainty alone does not a compelling plot make, and when the action is over, the completed story seems a perfect example of what happens when you have lashings of style and rather less substance.’
      • ‘Appearance should be balanced with content, style with substance, the medium with the message.’
      • ‘At a time when style is elevated over substance, when sleaze has been made a central preoccupation of government, a politician's personality often counts for more than his policies.’
      • ‘Style comes before substance in this world; image-conscious characters are constantly faking it, while bleating about doing something meaningful.’
      • ‘Of course, given who made the commercial, it's possible the authors really don't understand the difference between style and substance.’
      • ‘We all yearn for some sacred space where substance is more important than style, where glitz isn't mistaken for gold.’
      • ‘It's a contentious film, both in terms of style and substance.’
      • ‘Comic book movies, with all irony intact, demand substance over style.’
      • ‘Content is kept to a minimum while style wins over substance every time.’
      content, subject matter, subject, theme, topic, text, message, material, burden, tenor, essence, quintessence, heart, meat, gist, drift, sense, import
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  • 3mass noun The quality of being important, valid, or significant.

    ‘he had yet to accomplish anything of substance’
    • ‘Even in church-related colleges, many wondered whether denominational affiliation signified anything of substance.’
    • ‘And, like an onion unraveling, one wonders, underneath it all is there anything of substance?’
    • ‘There was no evidence that anything of substance was accomplished.’
    • ‘In the absence of having anything of substance to write about, I have updated my profile and fiddled around with my links.’
    • ‘On each of those issues there are half way measures which he can offer to placate the Neocons without really doing anything of substance for them.’
    • ‘My experience with the TV thing is that bookers tend to go with a two-person or three-person format when discussing anything of substance.’
    • ‘Neither side in the debate over tuition fees is able to hold the line - because neither side has anything of substance to hold the line on, or really believes in what they are saying.’
    • ‘The funny thing is that I almost never said anything of substance to this guy.’
    • ‘Despite frequent follow-up requests, we have yet to hear anything of substance.’
    • ‘So Parliament must have intended that the part of the house, in order to be material, would be of sufficient substance or significance to have an effect of some kind.’
    • ‘Denied the opportunity to vote on anything of substance, fifty-three Labour members registered their protest on a technicality.’
    • ‘Does he have anything of substance to say behind his posing?’
    • ‘But in the more than five years of bureaucratic work since, officials have not produced anything of substance.’
    • ‘There is an absolute resistance to putting anything of substance on display here.’
    • ‘I did not want to talk about anything of any substance.’
    • ‘I have no inspiration or inclination to write anything with any substance at the moment.’
    • ‘The key question is whether these will contain anything of substance or just be existing policy re-launched or merely window-dressing.’
    • ‘I don't believe that postings on a weblog ever really change anyone's mind about anything of substance.’
    • ‘They need to be retained in order to accomplish our goals and develop anything of substance.’
    • ‘I'm finding it increasingly difficult to post anything of substance here.’
    1. 3.1 The quality of having a solid basis in reality or fact.
      ‘the claim has no substance’
      • ‘As with all the best conspiracy theories, there's no proof, of course, but there always seems to be something to suggest there may be some substance to the claims.’
      • ‘Soviet scholars once made similar claims, with some substance.’
      • ‘There seems no reason to deny that the history of the West is in fact and substance different from that of other regions.’
      • ‘The inquiry has not yet established whether there is any substance to the claims relating to the amount of money handed over or to the existence or identity of the intermediary.’
      • ‘In my view there was no legal basis for the threat; it was without substance because what she'd done is fairly comment on facts that were very much in the public domain.’
      • ‘He would say that but the company now has a full complement of drivers, which suggests there is substance to his claim.’
      • ‘He goes on to say that any allegations of cruelty or misconduct are always investigated and action taken against those responsible if claims have substance.’
      • ‘The substance of these sensationalist claims consists largely of the fact that there is an Arab minority in Venezuela as well as hundreds of thousands of Colombian refugees.’
      • ‘The story's complete lack of factual basis and substance saw it die a quick death, although not before it did some damage to the party's standing leading up to the State poll.’
      • ‘This claim has no substance and is categorically untrue.’
      • ‘The new accuser can be produced as a prosecution witness in the current case if initial assessment finds substance in the claims.’
      • ‘A great deal of deception concerns form or opinions - not substance or facts.’
      • ‘The claims in fact lacked any substance or merit.’
      • ‘We have been able to reassure those patients who have contacted us directly that these claims are without substance.’
      • ‘The Government must have wanted to drown the sober questions of people who try to decide on matters on the basis of substance instead of slogans.’
      • ‘We should not make cheap heroes of people in opposition by accident or opportunism, but we should seek out the fact and substance in all opinions expressed.’
      • ‘If it were, he says, then there might be substance to those claims.’
      • ‘But it's almost impossible to see how much substance is behind these claims.’
      • ‘In some cases, the claims have substance because they arise from a developer's investment in human factors engineering.’
      • ‘The claim is always of ‘falling standards’ - a claim without justification or substance.’
    2. 3.2 The quality of being dependable or stable.
      ‘some were inclined to knock her for her lack of substance’
      • ‘While I thought he was charming, I thought he lacked substance; most viewers apparently thought he exuded leadership.’
      • ‘Campbell made his maiden speech to the lobby group's recent annual dinner, appearing a little dour and uncertain as he gave the vote of thanks, but friends say this should not be read as a lack of substance.’
      • ‘And the last two presidential elections, the reason why we lost, was a lack of substance.’
      • ‘The truth to be unveiled is that mental life is impermanent, lacks lasting substance and is the seedbed of dissatisfaction.’
      • ‘Her tendency to deconstruct and debase everything only points to the lack of substance that might be found in her own soul.’
    3. 3.3 Wealth and possessions.
      ‘a woman of substance’
      • ‘By the time he believes his eyes are beginning to fail, he considers himself a man of wealth and substance.’
      • ‘He came across as someone who knew who he was and was comfortable with himself - a strong, centred man of substance.’
      • ‘In the later nineteenth century a full figure had been a mark of beauty for woman and a sign of health, wealth, and substance for men.’
      wealth, fortune, riches, affluence, prosperity, money, capital, means, resources, assets, property, estates, possessions
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  • 4Philosophy
    mass noun The essential nature underlying phenomena, which is subject to changes and accidents.

    • ‘As we saw above, Spinoza adopted the traditional conception of substance as that which can exist in and of itself, and is not dependent on anything else.’
    • ‘Account allowed the immaterial substance to have a nature over and above the kinds of state we would regard as mental.’
    • ‘At the same time, an attribute is so called because the intellect attributes a certain nature to substance.’
    • ‘Edwards' mental phenomenalism is a natural extension of his occasionalism and views on substance.’
    • ‘All substance of whatever nature is reducible to one or other of nine different kinds: earth, water, fire, air, ether, space, time, self, and mind.’


  • in substance

    • Essentially.

      ‘basic rights are equivalent in substance to human rights’
      • ‘The certificate was, in substance, an abbreviated mechanism for exercising such supervision.’
      • ‘The distinction between a 2.2 and 2.1 is not, in substance, a difference of a few decimal points.’
      • ‘The one argument is it is in substance a transactional tax.’
      • ‘This can be illustrated briefly with references to two examples that are very different in substance but identical in principle.’
      • ‘People in various agencies who have reviewed the draft confirmed that it matched the final report in substance.’
      • ‘The Court of Appeal held that in substance the money had been used to pay for the improvements and so it was possible to trace the value of the money into those improvements.’
      • ‘Many cases are, in substance, decided by the court leadership rather than the panel.’
      • ‘Mr Hurst is in substance alleging matters which he raised or could have raised in the first action, in which summary judgment was given against Mr Hurst.’
      • ‘Such restrictions cannot however be regarded as equivalent in substance to a prohibition on manufacture and marketing.’
      • ‘A report was produced by Compass which in substance indicated that IBM's charges were above those of the comparators.’
      fundamentally, primarily, principally, chiefly, essentially, elementally, firstly, predominantly
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Middle English (denoting the essential nature of something): from Old French, from Latin substantia ‘being, essence’, from substant- ‘standing firm’, from the verb substare.