Merriam Webster Word of the Day: Sustain


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

What It Means

Sustain means “to provide what is needed for something or someone to exist or continue; to nourish.” It can also mean “to hold up the weight of,” “to suffer or endure,” or “to confirm or prove.” In legal contexts, to sustain something is to decide or state that it is proper, legal, or fair.

// Hope sustained us during that difficult time.

// The shed roof collapsed, unable to sustain the weight of all the snow.

// The athlete sustained serious injuries during last week’s game.

SUSTAIN in Context

“‘Besides being a vast reservoir of biodiversity, the deep ocean provides us with benefits ranging from carbon sequestration, to medicine, to food chains that sustain billions of people,’ said [Diva] Amon, who is a marine biologist and director and founder of SpeSeas.” — Targeted News Service (Honolulu, Hawaii), 11 Mar. 2022

Did You Know?

The word sustain is both handy and hardy. Its use has been sustained since the days of Middle English (its ultimate source is Latin sus-, meaning “up,” plus tenēre, meaning “to hold”) by its utility across a variety of consequential subjects, from environmental protections to legal proceedings to medical reports. The word is so prevalent and so varied in its application, in fact, that it enjoys sustained high ranking as one of our top lookups—evidence of our readers’ sustained commitment to, well, sustaining themselves with information about words.

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