Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Substantive


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is substantive. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Substantive means “important, real, or meaningful.” It can also be used to describe something, such as an argument, that is supported by facts or logic.

// My friendship with my pen pal was one of the most substantive of my childhood, despite the thousands of miles between us.


Box of Rain adopts a long view of the Deadhead scene, from its mid-’80s heyday before the hit ‘Touch of Grey’ ended the halcyon days of the band’s below-the-radar status, to the post-Garcia era that continues today. That span defines the film’s goal, which is to explain how a scene often dismissed as nothing more than rock ‘n’ roll hedonism actually offered participants something far more substantive, positive and life-affirming.” — Nicholas G. Meriwether,, 10 May 2022

Did You Know?

Substantive and substantial are quite a pair: the two have multiple similar meanings, can both ultimately be traced back to the same Latin root (the verb substare, whose figurative meaning is best understood as “to stand firm” or “to hold out”), and both made their first appearance in English sometime in the 14th century. But though they can be used interchangeably in some contexts (one can make “substantive progress” or “substantial progress,” for example), we usually use substantial to describe things that are large in size, scope, or extent (e.g., “a substantial amount,” “substantial increase”), while substantive is more likely to be used as a synonym of significant, real, or important. Substantive change, for example, is change that makes a fundamental difference, regardless of its size. Substantive also functions in grammar-related contexts describing or referring to nouns and noun phrases.

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