Definition of substitute in English:



  • 1A person or thing acting or serving in place of another.

    ‘soya milk is used as a substitute for dairy milk’
    • ‘No substitute for experience exists, though, and I certainly will not make the same mistake again.’
    • ‘Ms O'Connor claimed that emergency medical technicians had five days training at most in childbirth and that this was no substitute for midwifery assistance.’
    • ‘There is no substitute for immediate political intervention to diffuse this crisis.’
    • ‘I invariably order too much and end up feeling gluttonous, but no matter - there's no substitute for excellent sushi when you're in the mood for it.’
    • ‘Feeding birds commercial birdseed helps them through harsh winter conditions, but it's no substitute for improving backyard habitat.’
    • ‘Put simply, there is no substitute for expressing ideas in precise yet abstract symbols, which can then be manipulated and exploited using established laws and procedures.’
    • ‘There is no substitute for continuous incremental improvements and training, but these tools can help.’
    • ‘But super-power trappings offer only a flimsy mask for the realities of poverty and are no substitute for grassroots economic development.’
    • ‘We don't think that you can build a movement through running candidacies at the national level or the local level, and we do think there's no substitute for organizing on a grassroots basis.’
    • ‘Above all, self-service is no substitute for good service.’
    • ‘I know with the advance of the years the approach to training has changed and there is no substitute for the endless running but hopefully the training has become more game-orientated.’
    • ‘But there is no substitute for human intelligence.’
    • ‘No matter how often you perfect a training routine, there really is no substitute for a quick word in your ear about a run to be made, or when to play a one-touch pass as opposed to taking an extra touch to draw the defender close to you.’
    • ‘E-mail - regardless of its perceived efficiency, economical nature, and speed - is no substitute for meeting a potential partner.’
    • ‘Passion is no substitute for genuine compatibility.’
    • ‘No, young campers, there's no substitute for brains.’
    • ‘Above all, they should realise that, however clever civil servants are, a general education is no substitute for real experience and expertise, out there in the real world.’
    • ‘Even if we have too much information, filtered or unfiltered information taken out of context is no substitute for the genuine knowledge that can only emerge slowly over time.’
    • ‘Leadership might be assisted by various predispositions of character, but this is no substitute for education, experience, training, and opportunity.’
    • ‘Real-time data informing the passenger of poor service availability is no substitute for improved service availability.’
    replacement, deputy, relief, proxy, reserve, surrogate, cover, fill-in, stand-in, standby, locum, locum tenens, understudy, stopgap, alternative, ancillary
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A person or thing that becomes the object of love or another emotion which is deprived of its natural outlet.
      ‘a father substitute’
      • ‘Given the reality of the father's physical absence, it may be difficult to find other substitutes for the missing roles.’
      • ‘Before World War II, the single mother remained within her family circle, where a grandfather or uncle could become a substitute father.’
      • ‘The instructor had been an older man and someone that Carl had seen as a father figure, a substitute to fill part of a missing piece of his life.’
      • ‘Obsession, Johnson implies, is a poor substitute for love, and scopophilia a thin alternative to sex.’
      • ‘Victorio is dispassionate and controlling as the substitute father figure.’
  • 2A sports player nominated as eligible to replace another after a match has begun.

    ‘Stewart was the Rovers substitute’
    • ‘Each team will comprise of 5 players and two substitutes and games begin at 9.30 am prompt.’
    • ‘No doubt West Bromwich substitutes will summon players off the pitch, take their preferred place on the field and send off the referee.’
    • ‘The solution is quite simple - let's go back to having 13 players and two substitutes making sure everyone plays for the shirt.’
    • ‘With no substitutes available, the player gamely attempted to play on hoping that treatment during the interval could do the trick.’
    • ‘Each team was allowed up to eight players including two rotating substitutes, and each team was guaranteed three games.’
    • ‘There are seven players in a team and a maximum of 12 players make up a squad to allow for substitutes.’
    • ‘Otley Town were forced to re-play this West Riding County FA Challenge Cup tie after playing an ineligible player as a substitute for less than a minute in the original tie.’
    • ‘I was revived by smelling salts but, without a substitute to replace me, I played on.’
    • ‘Parsley again goes into a cup match without a substitute goalkeeper.’
    • ‘He has made only three appearances as a substitute in competitive matches, the last of them for the final six minutes of the 2-2 draw away to Austria.’
    • ‘Even if he is used sparingly as a substitute, such a player can always unlock doors and turn tides in the blink of an eye.’
    • ‘A covering defender stretched to block the cross and was very unfortunate to see his attempted clearance creep in at the near post despite the best efforts of the substitute goalkeeper.’
    • ‘The teams - in orange, blue or green bibs - are each a deliberate mixture of first-team regulars, substitutes and fringe players.’
    • ‘On an earlier occasion, I suggested that if a player is injured and unable to take part, a substitute should replace the injured man and take part in the game without any restrictions whatsoever.’
    • ‘He embraced a few desolate Brazilians, saluted some unused substitutes, stood back from the party and took his leave.’
    • ‘Yes, I've played 30 games this season but for the last four or five matches I've been amongst the substitutes, which is obviously disappointing.’
    • ‘This win is testimony to the great work done by this bunch of players and substitutes over the last three months and it is hoped that further success will follow in the years to come.’
    • ‘It is disheartening to see teams at a school where 58 percent of its students are female not have enough players to have substitutes on the bench.’
    • ‘In all the incident lasted about five minutes and eye witnesses told of fists, boots and hurleys being used as players, substitutes and spectators were drawn into the brawl.’
    • ‘All 11 players and three substitutes were outstanding.’
  • 3Scots Law
    A deputy.

    ‘a sheriff substitute’
    • ‘Of course, if the claimant has hired a substitute there should be no loss of profit.’
    • ‘He added that the arrangement they had made for a substitute was without prejudice to his rights and remedies following rejection.’
    • ‘Secondly, because there are many motorists who lack the inclination or the ready cash to hire a substitute on the chance of recovering reimbursement from the defendant's insurers.’


  • 1Use or add in place of.

    ‘dried rosemary can be substituted for the fresh herb’
    • ‘Dairy-free margarine, vegetable shortening, or soy butter (if your child tolerates soy) can be substituted for real butter.’
    • ‘Velcro can be substituted for the adhesive tabs found on store-bought pads.’
    • ‘Regular cream can be substituted for the creme fraiche.’
    • ‘Plastic mesh can be substituted for the wire mesh.’
    • ‘These were boarded up, but the timber was then taken away, as also the galvanised iron which was substituted for the boards which were removed.’
    • ‘Click speed can also be slowed down for seniors, and in some cases, one click can be substituted for two.’
    • ‘Now, I think this story would work just about as well if the words ‘piano concerto’ were substituted for ‘opera’.’
    • ‘It could also save the lives of laboratory mice because chicken eggs and embryos share many genes and biochemical pathways with mammals, so they can be substituted for live animals in experiments.’
    • ‘The answer to this is that firepower could be substituted for manpower.’
    • ‘Pizza and coke will be substituted for wine and nibbles.’
    • ‘After one year, Starting Well has admitted that a telephone call can be substituted for a home visit.’
    • ‘Mushrooms, when obtainable, are a great improvement to this dish, and when not in season, mushroom-powder may be substituted for them.’
    • ‘Dance halls, which were popular haunts for the city's fun seekers in the 60s, have been substituted for mega pubs and a new breed of night clubs.’
    • ‘The promoters have conveniently ignored the fact as the UK has no uranium mines, one imported fuel will be substituted for another.’
    • ‘A dark honey may be substituted for brown sugar, but make sure the honey is very thick.’
    • ‘If you're underage, 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract can be substituted for Creme de Menthe.’
    • ‘Acquire a pair of ducks - you can keep them in a bathtub on the roof (hens can be substituted for ducks).’
    • ‘Mushroom and vegetable bouillon cubes can be substituted for chicken.’
    • ‘The stem bark yields quality fibre that may be substituted for jute, but is stated to be of no advantage over jute.’
    • ‘Prawns and shrimps can be substituted for the chicken in this recipe with equally delicious results.’
    exchange, use as a replacement, switch
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[no object]Act or serve as a substitute.
      ‘I found someone to substitute for me’
      • ‘It has some utility, but it wouldn't ever substitute for trial by jury.’
      • ‘The fact of the matter is, the journalism business is a very local business, and no amount of technology available right now can substitute for being in somebody's face.’
      • ‘Unmanned air surface and undersea vehicles can substitute for the loss of a number of ships, but not for all of them.’
      • ‘This week will substitute for the monthly meeting for May.’
      • ‘Insurers have guaranteed schools that non-teaching staff employed to patrol school property or to substitute for staff on uncertified sick leave will be covered.’
      • ‘Within a year or so of the Revolution, he adopted - with typical enthusiasm - the principle that in crisis the Party must substitute for the proletariat.’
      • ‘I think that they need to understand that praying does not substitute for public practice.’
      • ‘All you do is pout like a little boy and cry out ‘you are a typical conservative’ as if the repetition of that hoary cliche is supposed to substitute for a real argument.’
      • ‘Every time a function that used to be performed by public servants is outsourced to the private sector, private jobs substitute for public ones.’
      • ‘Cellphones won't substitute for hands-on protection by parents.’
      • ‘Bananas are a good alternative to potatoes as a source of potassium, and citrus fruits can substitute for broccoli to cover vitamin C requirements.’
      • ‘A survey showed more than 70 per cent of students said typing on a keyboard can substitute for handwriting.’
      • ‘They must not substitute for effective action.’
      • ‘So do not take the following sentences as some fluffy hyperbole meant to substitute for a real, five paragraph review.’
      • ‘Ballots substitute for bullets in venting internal frustrations.’
      • ‘In time little voice intonations, punctuation and even language choice will substitute for body language.’
      • ‘The loss of this essential service will place hardship on many people who do not as yet have access to the kind of banking facilities which will be necessary to substitute for walking into the local office.’
      • ‘It did not substitute for a congressional investigation.’
      • ‘No longer can a lot of cheery-sounding mush from teachers and administrators substitute for hard facts.’
      • ‘Simply put, no federal outreach effort can substitute for the quality and quantity of contacts that local police officers have within the neighborhoods they serve.’
      substitute, deputize, stand in, cover, provide cover, take over, act, act as deputy, act as stand-in, sit in, act as understudy, understudy, be a proxy, act as locum tenens
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Replace (someone or something) with another.
      ‘customs officers substituted the drugs with another substance’
      ‘this was substituted by a new clause’
      • ‘Research is ongoing, to determine whether commodity infestations can be managed by modifying the photoperiod and by substituting different wavelengths of light into the photoperiod.’
      • ‘The next day I tell Mike I will look at the photos and try to identify them if they will substitute different photos for any that depict Jamal.’
      • ‘Alternatively substitute the shovelling with a good brisk walk for that hour and a half followed by the other.’
      • ‘People want to know if they can use one herb instead of another, or if they can make something ahead of time and reheat it, or if they can substitute different meat.’
      • ‘Lichtman has substituted a different table - never referred to in the report.’
      • ‘Policies aimed at separate development will ghettoise Aboriginal people, substituting their theoretical oppressors with real ones.’
      • ‘You might need to substitute a different user name.’
      • ‘So we need to focus on different things to substitute that feeling, and we know this and we are working on this.’
      • ‘Those amendments validate changes in membership, either to replace or to substitute members during the course of tribunal hearings.’
      • ‘Witnesses of non-Judeo-Christian faiths can also ask to substitute an alternate text for the Bible.’
      • ‘Just as well I did, too, because a clerical error had substituted a different model than the one I chose.’
      • ‘We reserve the right to substitute similar products of equal or greater value in the unlikely event that the original prizes should be unavailable.’
      • ‘These are merely guidelines; substitute different grains, fruits and nuts as you wish.’
      • ‘A different picture emerges if we substitute a conceptual framework that is inclusive of gift exchange and its role in these societies.’
      • ‘Once a player has played a card to a trick, she may not change her mind and substitute a different card.’
      • ‘That would be substituting one religion with another.’
      • ‘Material comforts can never substitute unconditional love from one's family, whatever the comfort might be.’
      • ‘Today reserves the right to substitute the concert and recording session or elements thereof with a prize of equal or greater value at their sole discretion.’
      • ‘Originally he was charged with 16 offences, but yesterday they were withdrawn and five sample charges were substituted.’
      • ‘Promoter reserves the right to substitute prizes of equal value in the event that circumstances beyond its control make this unavoidable.’
    3. 1.3Chemistry Replace (an atom or group in a molecule, especially a hydrogen atom) with another.
      ‘three of the hydrogen atoms of the methane molecule have been substituted by chlorine, bromine or iodine atoms’
      • ‘The second module was the optionally substituted phenyl group at the 3 position, and the third module the optionally substituted phenyl group at the 4 position.’
      • ‘At the second and third carbon atoms, instead of a full complement of hydrogens, each carbon atom would have a methyl group substituting one of the carbons.’
      • ‘The Vanderbilt team had the additional idea of not only attaching a nitrogen atom to the ring but substituting a nitrogen atom for one of the carbon atoms in the benzene ring itself.’
      • ‘The presence of electron-donating amino or substituted amino groups in a molecule generally makes it a good electron donor.’
      • ‘In anaerobic environments, some bacteria are able to substitute metal ions for molecular oxygen in the process of respiration.’
    4. 1.4Chemistry (of a compound) in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by other atoms or groups.
      ‘a substituted terpenoid’
      • ‘One possibility is to dissolve the spent fuel in an ionic liquid, such as a substituted pyridinium nitrate, then separate out components of the fuel in solution.’
      • ‘For example, if the longest chain were found to be five carbon atoms, then the compound would be identified as a substituted pentane.’
      • ‘The substituted alanines used as inhibitors can be regarded as both analogues of the substrates and the products.’
      • ‘Metoclopramide, a substituted benzamide derivative, is a gastrointestinal prokinetic agent that increases gastrointestinal motility.’
      • ‘The side chains of the substituted residues easily accommodate in the dimer interlace.’
  • 2Replace (a sports player) with a substitute during a match.

    ‘he was substituted eleven minutes from time’
    • ‘If you're not fond of the arcade style you can opt for the Simulation mode which emulates the real thing, right down to substituting fresh players to combat fatigue and injury.’
    • ‘He is obviously unaware that Wiltord was substituted a few minutes ago.’
    • ‘France's star player picked up the injury in the 38th minute when engaged in a sprint and signalled to be substituted straight away.’
    • ‘Their three best players were all substituted at half-time and the second period was made up of reserve players.’
    • ‘Solid depth means the Cowboys can substitute three players at a time and remain strong.’
    • ‘I decided to come off the bench in the second half but left it so late because I couldn't single out one player who deserved to be substituted.’
    • ‘He said it was easier to substitute field players who got injured but not so for a goalkeeper when he was alone on the bench.’
    • ‘Unsurprisingly the momentum was lost when Cassano was substituted with 20 minutes remaining.’
    • ‘After an ineffective first-half display, Owen was substituted seven minutes after the interval.’
    • ‘And on a night when nothing went right for the Shakers, an assistant even managed to substitute the wrong player.’
    • ‘The 37-year-old sparked a show of respect, almost hero worship, from his fellow players when he was substituted in the 67th minute of his final match before retirement.’
    • ‘The entrance of team mentors from each side was no help whatsoever and a player who had been substituted at half time came back on the field and joined in the melee.’
    • ‘At the other extreme, if we are well behind, the coach is also acting logically in throwing caution to the wind in substituting players on a wing and a prayer that they might conceivably make a difference.’
    • ‘Tell your kids that you are going to substitute every 3 minutes and that they all get to play equally.’
    • ‘The Bradford man was able to continue but the Town player had to be substituted.’
    • ‘But he refused to gloat after United teammate Veron was substituted after an ineffective performance.’
    • ‘Firstly Big Players had to substitute their goalkeeper, due to a head injury sustained as he jumped to collect a high ball.’
    • ‘The committee suggests that players be substituted frequently on hot days to increase rest periods.’
    • ‘Your players will win points if they pick up red or yellow cards, score own goals, are substituted, concede goals or, if they play up front, fail to score.’
    • ‘Hughes said the conditions, which include substituting a player at any time during the match, would not help narrow the gap between Australia and the rest of the world.’


Traditionally, the verb substitute is followed by for and means ‘put someone or something in place of another’, as in she substituted the fake vase for the real one. From the late 17th century substitute has also been used to mean ‘replace someone or something with something else’, as in she substituted the real vase with the fake one. This can be confusing, since the two sentences shown above mean the same thing, yet the object of the verb and the object of the preposition have swapped positions. Despite the potential confusion, the second, newer use is well established, especially in some scientific contexts and in sport (the top scorer was substituted with almost half an hour still to play), and is now generally regarded as part of normal standard English


Late Middle English (denoting a deputy or delegate): from Latin substitutus put in place of, past participle of substituere, based on statuere set up.