Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for subsistence in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)


From Late Latin subsistentia (substance, reality, in Medieval Latin also stability), from Latin subsistens, present participle of subsistere (to continue, subsist). See subsist.


  • IPA(key): /səbˈsɪstəns/
    • (file)


subsistence (countable and uncountable, plural subsistences)

  1. Real being; existence.
    • 1686, Edward Stillingfleet, the Doctrines and Practices of the Church of Rome
      the human nature loseth its proper subsistence , and is assumed into the subsistence of the divine nature
  2. The act of maintaining oneself at a minimum level.
  3. Inherency.
    the subsistence of qualities in bodies
  4. Something (food, water, money, etc.) that is required to stay alive.
    • 1788, Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, Dawson, Federalist 79, page 548:
      In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will.
    • 1716 February 3, Joseph Addison, “The Free-holder: No. 10. Monday, January 23. [1716.] [Julian calendar]”, in The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; [], volume IV, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], published 1721, OCLC 1056445272:
      His viceroy could only propose to himself a comfortable subsistence out of the plunder of his province.
  5. (theology) Embodiment or personification or hypostasis of an underlying principle or quality.


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