What does sustain mean?

Definitions for sustain

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word sustain.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. prolong, sustain, keep upverb

    lengthen or extend in duration or space

    "We sustained the diplomatic negotiations as long as possible"; "prolong the treatment of the patient"; "keep up the good work"

  2. suffer, sustain, have, getverb

    undergo (as of injuries and illnesses)

    "She suffered a fracture in the accident"; "He had an insulin shock after eating three candy bars"; "She got a bruise on her leg"; "He got his arm broken in the scuffle"

  3. nourish, nurture, sustainverb

    provide with nourishment

    "We sustained ourselves on bread and water"; "This kind of food is not nourishing for young children"

  4. sustain, keep, maintainverb

    supply with necessities and support

    "She alone sustained her family"; "The money will sustain our good cause"; "There's little to earn and many to keep"

  5. hold, support, sustain, hold upverb

    be the physical support of; carry the weight of

    "The beam holds up the roof"; "He supported me with one hand while I balanced on the beam"; "What's holding that mirror?"

  6. sustainverb

    admit as valid

    "The court sustained the motion"

  7. confirm, corroborate, sustain, substantiate, support, affirmverb

    establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts

    "his story confirmed my doubts"; "The evidence supports the defendant"


  1. sustainnoun

    A mechanism which can be used to hold a note, as the right pedal on a piano.

  2. sustainverb

    To maintain (something), or keep it in existence.

  3. sustainverb

    To provide for or nourish (something).

  4. sustainverb

    To encourage (something).

  5. sustainverb

    To experience or suffer (an injury, etc.).

  6. sustainverb

    To confirm, prove, or corroborate (something).

  7. Etymology: From sustenir (French: soutenir), from sustineo, from sub- + teneo.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. To SUSTAINverb

    Etymology: soustenir, Fr. sustineo, Latin.

    The largeness and lightness of her wings and tail sustain her without lassitude. More.

    Vain is the force of man,
    To crush the pillars that the pile sustain. John Dryden, Æneid.

    The admirable curiosity and singular excellency of this design will sustain the patience, and animate the industry of him who shall undertake it. William Holder.

    If he have no comfortable expectations of another life to sustain him under the evils in this world, he is of all creatures the most miserable. John Tillotson.

    What food
    Will he convey up thither to sustain
    Himself and army? John Milton.

    But it on her, not she on it depends;
    For she the body doth sustain and cherish. Davies.

    My labour will sustain me. John Milton.

    They charged on pain of perpetual displeasure, neither to entreat for him, or any way sustain him. William Shakespeare.

    His sons who seek the tyrant to sustain,
    And long for arbitrary lords again,
    He dooms to death, asserting publick right. John Dryden, Æn.

    Were it I thought death menac’d would ensue
    This my attempt, I would sustain alone
    The worst, and not persuade thee. John Milton.

    Can Ceyx then sustain to leave his wife,
    And unconcern’d forsake the sweets of life. Dryden.

    Shall Turnus then such endless toil sustain,
    In fighting fields, and conquer towns in vain. Dryden.

    The mind stands collected within herself, and sustains the shock with all the force which is natural to her; but a heart in love has its foundations sapped. Addison.

    Sacharissa’s beauty’s wine,
    Which to madness doth incline;
    Such a liquor as no brain
    That is mortal can sustain. Edmund Waller.

    If you omit
    The offer of this time, I cannot promise,
    But that you shall sustain more new disgraces,
    With these you bear already. William Shakespeare, Henry VIII.


  1. sustain

    In sound and music, an envelope describes how a sound changes over time. It may relate to elements such as amplitude (volume), frequencies (with the use of filters) or pitch. For example, a piano key, when struck and held, creates a near-immediate initial sound which gradually decreases in volume to zero. Envelope generators, which allow users to control the different stages of a sound, are common features of synthesizers, samplers, and other electronic musical instruments. The most common form of envelope generator is controlled with four parameters: attack, decay, sustain and release (ADSR).

Webster Dictionary

  1. Sustainverb

    to keep from falling; to bear; to uphold; to support; as, a foundation sustains the superstructure; a beast sustains a load; a rope sustains a weight

  2. Sustainverb

    hence, to keep from sinking, as in despondence, or the like; to support

  3. Sustainverb

    to maintain; to keep alive; to support; to subsist; to nourish; as, provisions to sustain an army

  4. Sustainverb

    to aid, comfort, or relieve; to vindicate

  5. Sustainverb

    to endure without failing or yielding; to bear up under; as, to sustain defeat and disappointment

  6. Sustainverb

    to suffer; to bear; to undergo

  7. Sustainverb

    to allow the prosecution of; to admit as valid; to sanction; to continue; not to dismiss or abate; as, the court sustained the action or suit

  8. Sustainverb

    to prove; to establish by evidence; to corroborate or confirm; to be conclusive of; as, to sustain a charge, an accusation, or a proposition

  9. Sustainnoun

    one who, or that which, upholds or sustains; a sustainer


  1. Sustain

    In music, sustain is a parameter of musical sound over time. As its name implies, it denotes the period of time during which the sound remains before it becomes inaudible, or silent. Additionally, sustain is the third of the four segments in an ADSR envelope. The sustain portion of the ADSR envelope begins when the attack and decay portions have run their course, and continues until the key is released. The sustain control is used to determine the level at which the envelope will remain. While the attack, decay, and release controls are rate or time controls, the sustain control is a level control.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Sustain

    sus-tān′, v.t. to hold up: to bear: to maintain: to relieve: to prove: to sanction: to prolong.—adjs. Sustain′able, that may be sustained; Sustained′, kept up at one uniform pitch.—ns. Sustain′er, one who, or that which, sustains; Sustain′ment, act of sustaining, sustenance; Sus′tenance, that which sustains: maintenance: provisions.—adj. Sustentac′ular, supporting, pertaining to a Sustentac′ulum, a support or sustaining tissue, esp. an inferior spine of the tarsus in spiders of the genus Epeira.—v.t. Sus′tentāte, to sustain.—n. Sustentā′tion, that which sustains: support: maintenance.—adj. Susten′tative, sustaining.—ns. Sus′tentātor, a sustaining part or structure; Susten′tion, the act of sustaining; Susten′tor, one of two posterior projections of a butterfly-chrysalis.—Sustentation Fund, the scheme by which the ministers of the Free Church of Scotland are supported by voluntary contributions not local or congregational, but with a national altruism or solidarity paid into a great central fund, out of which equal stipends are paid to all alike. [L. sustinēresub, up, tenēre, to hold.]

Military Dictionary and Gazetteer

  1. sustain

    To sustain is to aid, succor, or support, any body of men in action or defense.

Editors Contribution

  1. sustain

    To provide or supply a moderate amount that is fair and just and in order of priority.

    Their income from both their forms of employment can sustain their lifestyle and they are grateful.

    Submitted by MaryC on March 13, 2020  

  2. sustain

    At a moderate level with a specific, accurate, moderate and sufficient amount or number and ensuring the action is mindful and fair to the environment or planet.

    They did sustain their business easily and efficiently.

    Submitted by MaryC on March 13, 2020  

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Verbs Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'sustain' in Verbs Frequency: #578

How to pronounce sustain?

How to say sustain in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of sustain in Chaldean Numerology is: 5

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of sustain in Pythagorean Numerology is: 4

Examples of sustain in a Sentence

  1. Dave Martinez:

    We’ve got to get a little bit more from our starting pitchers and keep us close, when we do that, we end up winning ballgames. You can’t spot a team five runs and come back and sustain that every day.

  2. Barry Boden:

    The force of impact and how many concussions athletes sustain are factors, but there are also genetic factors that play into things, you have to follow someone for 30 years, and take into account family history of migraines or other problems.

  3. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

    The only way that you beat a machine is with a movement and the only way that this movement can sustain is if we start in good faith on shared values of a New York citizen. I think that is where Cynthia and I come together, i very much value the work and the impact that she has already made, due to the fact that she can go on‘The View’andtalk about abolishing ICE. What we can do is tag-team this message so that every community can hear it that needs to hear it. And I think that that kind of solidarity across lines is very, very powerful.

  4. Yucheng Wang:

    When the climate got wetter and the ice began to melt, it led to the formation of lakes, rivers, and marshes. The ecosystem changed and the biomass of the vegetation reduced and would not have been able to sustain the herds of mammoths, we have shown that climate change, specifically precipitation, directly drives the change in the vegetation -- humans had no impact on them at all based on our models.

  5. Rolando Enrique Domingo:

    The polio vaccinations happen all year round, but our coverage dropped for the past five years, we've learned our lesson. It is time to move on and really start vaccinating all kids and make sure we sustain this every year.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for sustain

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"sustain." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 9 Jun 2023. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/sustain>.

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    evincing the presence of a deity
    • A. bristly
    • B. motile
    • C. ostensive
    • D. numinous

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