Definition of substantive in English:



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

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

    • ‘Nothing has a substantive existence apart from everything else and exists only in the context of everything else.’
    • ‘It therefore appeared to be a substantive, independent factor.’
    1. 2.1(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.’
  • 3(of law) defining rights and duties as opposed to giving the rules by which such things are established.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The submission there is that one needs primary statutory backing before a power to make procedural rules can affect substantive limitation periods.’


  • A noun.

    • ‘In short, it rejected the idea that Father, Son, and Spirit are either merely adjectives or full substantives.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘All entities, substantives, adverbs, sentences are patiently, and joyously, called into question.’
    • ‘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.’


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