Meaning of SUBSTANCE in English


sub ‧ stance W3 /ˈsʌbstəns/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ substance , ↑ substantiation , ↑ substantive ; adjective : ↑ substantial ≠ ↑ insubstantial , ↑ substantive ; verb : ↑ substantiate ; adverb : ↑ substantially ]

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: Latin substantia , from substare 'to stand under' ]

1 . MATERIAL [countable] a particular type of solid, liquid, or gas:

The leaves were covered with a strange sticky substance.

dangerous/toxic/hazardous/poisonous etc substance

harmful substances in the atmosphere

Plutonium 238 is one of the most toxic substances known to man.

illegal/banned/prohibited/controlled substance (=used especially about illegal drugs)

Police found an illegal substance in his car.

2 . TRUTH [uncountable usually in questions and negatives] formal if something has substance, it is true:

There is no substance to the rumours (=they are untrue) .

without substance (=untrue)

O'Connell’s remarks are completely without substance.

3 . IDEAS [singular, uncountable] the most important ideas contained in an argument or piece of writing SYN essence :

The substance of his argument was that people on welfare should work.

in substance

What she said, in substance, was that the mayor should resign.

4 . IMPORTANCE [uncountable] formal importance SYN significance :

It was an entertaining speech, but it lacked substance (=there was no important information in it) .

matters/issues of substance

We should be discussing matters of substance.

5 . man/woman of substance British English literary a rich man or woman

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■ adjectives

▪ a dangerous/hazardous/harmful substance

Using chemicals or othe hazardous substances at work can put people's health at risk.

▪ a poisonous substance ( also a noxious substance formal ) (=harmful to people)

Cigarette smoke contains several poisonous substances.

▪ a toxic substance (=harmful to people and the environment)

All toxic substances should be labelled and carefully stored in a safe place.

▪ a radioactive substance (=containing a form of energy that can harm people)

People who work with radioactive substances are subject to strict regulations.

▪ an illegal/banned/prohibited substance (=used mainly to refer to illegal drugs)

Any player found guilty of using banned substances faces the prospect of a lengthy suspension.

▪ a controlled substance law (=an illegal drug)

He was charged with possessing a controlled substance.

▪ an organic substance (=from a living thing)

Despite being an organic substance, ivory is remarkably durable.

• • •


■ a solid or liquid substance

▪ material noun [uncountable and countable] a substance, especially one that can be used for making things:

building materials


The island has to import oil and other raw materials (=materials used for making things) .


radioactive material

▪ substance noun [countable] a type of material such as a chemical or a mineral:

The green colour of the leaf is due to a substance called chlorophyll.


Dioxin is one of the most toxic substances known to man.

▪ matter noun [uncountable] formal a type of substance – used especially in the following phrases:

waste matter from the body


It is important to add plenty of organic matter to the soil.


People throw away lots of vegetable matter.

▪ stuff noun [uncountable] informal a substance - used especially when you do not know exactly what it is:

What’s that sticky stuff on the floor?

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.