Definition of substantive in English:



  • 1Having a firm basis in reality and so important, meaningful, or considerable.

    ‘there is no substantive evidence for the efficacy of these drugs’
    • ‘And then he'll - he'll talk about life or the idea of the movies in a way that's so substantive and important.’
    • ‘The substantive issue that she raises is important.’
    • ‘Choice likewise provides a substantive basis for parental and student buy-in.’
    • ‘If the Government is committed to meaningful and substantive talks they have to show that.’
    • ‘His recuperative perception, in other words, is the substantive basis of a dramatic engagement.’
    • ‘I instinctively like empowering political interest groups, which despite their flaws do articulate important substantive visions.’
    • ‘Yes I think decision making institutional issues are far more important than substantive reforms.’
    • ‘Nothing short of substantive and meaningful improvement in the material well being of ordinary South Africans will overturn this tide of distrust and scepticism.’
    • ‘But it is important to note that substantive discussions of issues rarely entered into Five Points political contests.’
    • ‘Hence, if there is no valid or substantive argument on the basis of the application itself, there can be no grant of an exemption.’
    • ‘This phenomenon is not based on ideological considerations or substantive issues of national concern.’
    • ‘Although these articles together make an important substantive contribution to this new understanding, they certainly do not constitute the last word on the subject.’
    • ‘Elections are not the sole gauge of democracy, but they are, of course, important, substantive milestones.’
    • ‘These similar trajectories, however, mask important substantive distinctions.’
    • ‘Healthcheck encourages distrust of medical professionals, and the lack of substantive evidence in many of its reports muddies the issues at stake.’
    • ‘It constituted the first important dialogue on substantive nuclear issues between the two self-declared de facto nuclear weapon powers of the world.’
    • ‘Some students of the media have developed a notion of the game schema model, where tactics and strategy are now more important than substantive issues.’
    • ‘They subsequently assisted him in the drafting of statements which were considered substantive evidence of the aggravation and difficulties he had been forced to endure during this debacle.’
    • ‘Parties are unstable and hard to distinguish on the basis of substantive issues.’
    • ‘And now it's time for the White House to help bring the parties together to get real, meaningful, substantive tax relief done.’
  • 2Having a separate and independent existence.

    • ‘It therefore appeared to be a substantive, independent factor.’
    • ‘Nothing has a substantive existence apart from everything else and exists only in the context of everything else.’
    1. 2.1(of a rank or appointment) not acting or temporary; permanent.
      ‘he earned the rank of Substantive Corporal’
      • ‘In many cases they could not have been appointed to a substantive NHS post.’
      • ‘Temporary promotion to the higher rank is for specified period and limited to one rank higher than the member's substantive rank.’
      • ‘This is in addition to the campaign we launched in August 2001 to recruit consultants and general practitioners from around the world into substantive posts.’
      • ‘Offices within the Central Intelligence Agency have been very proactive in the expanded use of outside substantive experts to generate and test analytic assumptions.’
      • ‘In all this, the Army's position remains that there is a need to maintain a substantive Legacy Force in order to hedge against such uncertainties.’
    2. 2.2(of an enactment, motion, or resolution) made in due form as such; not amended.
      • ‘Point of order: The honourable member knows that if she wishes to make such statements about another member of this House she should do it by substantive motion.’
      • ‘We believe that before any British troops are involved in military action there should be a substantive motion and a vote in parliament.’
      • ‘The European Parliament should be lobbied for more concrete and substantive resolutions that are beneficial to Taiwan.’
      • ‘The substantive motion was then voted on, and carried by a massive majority.’
      • ‘And so the bickering goes on… without any substantive proposals from anyone to deal with systemic problems they've identified.’
  • 3(of law) defining rights and duties, as opposed to giving the procedural rules by which those rights and duties are enforced.

    • ‘It found that it was now a settled principle that legal professional privilege is a rule of substantive law, some of the judges talked about it in terms of human rights, others in terms of civil rights.’
    • ‘Plainly, this provision is couched in terms referring to the Court's jurisdiction, and not as a substantive rule of criminal law whereby minors may not be held criminally responsible.’
    • ‘The submission there is that one needs primary statutory backing before a power to make procedural rules can affect substantive limitation periods.’
    • ‘Each procedural pigeon-hole contains its own rules of substantive law, and it is with great caution that we may argue from what is found in one to what will probably be found in another; each has its own precedents.’
    • ‘But judicial comity requires restraint, based on mutual respect not only for the integrity of one another's process, but also for one another's procedural and substantive laws.’
  • 4(of a dye) not needing a mordant.

    • ‘Not all dyes need mordants to help them adhere to fabric. If they need no mordants, such as lichens and walnut hulls, they are called substantive dyes.’


  • A noun.

    • ‘All entities, substantives, adverbs, sentences are patiently, and joyously, called into question.’
    • ‘In the process, they created a ‘genre’ of ‘Australian’ film, something like the ‘western’ genre in the United States at the time, inasmuch as it can be identified by prospective viewers mainly as a modifier for other generic substantives.’
    • ‘In short, it rejected the idea that Father, Son, and Spirit are either merely adjectives or full substantives.’
    • ‘Nathan said only enough to indicate that he was using language with an unaccustomed force and intelligence - but mildly annoying, as if all substantives fell away, leaving only the prepositions.’
    • ‘This is a clear sentence, with two nominal substantives - fire and rice, an activity - cooking, and an agent - the fire which brings about the cooked rice.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘having an independent existence’): from Old French substantif, -ive or late Latin substantivus, from substantia essence (see substance).