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First attested in 1382: from the Old French sustentacion, from the Latin sustentātio, from sustentō; compare the Italian sostentazione, the Occitan sustentacion, the Portuguese sustentação, and the Spanish sustentación. Doublet of sustentatio.


sustentation (countable and uncountable, plural sustentations)

  1. The act or the result of sustaining; sustainment.
  2. The aggregate of the functions by which a living organism is maintained in a normal condition of weight and growth.
    • 1650, Thomas Browne, “Of the Cameleon”, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica: [], 2nd edition, London: [] A. Miller, for Edw[ard] Dod and Nath[aniel] Ekins, [], OCLC 152706203, 3rd book, page 133:
      It cannot be denied it [the chameleon] is (if not the moſt of any) a very abſtemious animall, and ſuch as by reaſon of its frigidity, paucity of bloud, and latitancy in the winter (about which time the obſervations are often made) will long ſubſist without a viſible ſuſtentation.
  3. (Christianity) 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.