a. That which has mass and occupies space; matter.
b. A material of a particular kind or constitution.
c. A drug, chemical, or other material (such as glue) that one is dependent on or uses habitually and that is often illegal or subject to government regulation: Which substance was he abusing?
2. The most important part or idea of what is said or written; the essence or gist: the substance of the report.
a. That which is real or practical in quality or character; practical value: a plan without substance.
b. Significance or importance: Did he accomplish anything of substance?
4. Density; body: Air has little substance.
5. Material possessions; goods; wealth: a person of substance.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin substantia, from substāns, substant-, present participle of substāre, to be present : sub-, sub- + stāre, to stand; see stā- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: substance2, core, gist, purport
These nouns denote the essential import or significance of something spoken or written: the substance of his complaint; the core of a scientific article; the gist of her argument; the purport of a document.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.