AskDefine | Define sustain

Dictionary Definition



1 lengthen or extend in duration or space; "We sustained the diplomatic negociations as long as possible"; "prolong the treatment of the patient"; "keep up the good work" [syn: prolong, keep up]
2 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" [syn: suffer, have, get]
3 provide with nourishment; "We sustained ourselves on bread and water"; "This kind of food is not nourishing for young children" [syn: nourish, nurture]
4 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" [syn: keep, maintain]
5 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?" [syn: hold, support, hold up]
6 admit as valid; "The court sustained the motion"
7 establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts; "his story confirmed my doubts"; "The evidence supports the defendant" [syn: confirm, corroborate, substantiate, support, affirm] [ant: negate]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /səˈsteɪn/, /s@"steIn/
  • Rhymes: -eɪn


From sustenir (French: soutenir), from sustenire.


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


  1. To maintain (something), or keep it in existence.
  2. To provide for or nourish (something).
  3. To encourage (something).
  4. To experience or suffer (an injury, etc.).
  5. To confirm, prove or corroborate (something).

Derived terms


to maintain something
  • Estonian: alal hoidma
  • Hungarian: fenntart
  • Polish: podtrzymać
to provide for or noursh something

Extensive Definition

Sustain is a parameter of musical sound in time. As its name implies, it denotes the period of time during which the sound is sustained before it becomes inaudible. Furthermore, 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.


may mean : - Strengthen or support physically or mentally - bear (the weight of an object) without breaking or falling


Instruments with the shortest sustain are usually drums; a drum beat begins to fade almost instantly. Instruments with the highest possible sustain often involve the passage of air, such as brass or the pipe organ, which have theoretically unlimited sustain. Resonating instruments such as the piano and guitar also have fairly long sustain for string instruments. ll

Factors affecting sustain

Within a family of instruments, sustain is affected by a variety of factors. For example, sustain in guitars is determined by factors including body construction (hollow versus solid), body woods, the placing of strings (through the body or atop the body), and pickup design. In electric guitars and pianos, dedicated effects pedals are available that prolong the sustain-phase of a tone. Its counterpart in synthesizers is the S (for sustain) in the ADSR envelope.
The sustain pedal is the electronic equivalent of a piano's damper pedal. In most synthesizers, the sustain pedal latches the envelopes of any currently playing or subsequently played notes at their sustain levels, even if the keys are lifted.

Increasing sustain

There are musical devices used to increase sustain known as Sustainers, such as the patented Fernandes Sustainer guitar system and the EBow, which can be used to produce virtually infinite sustain.
There are many factors that affect the level of sustain in guitars. The most obvious ones are the craftmanship and the quality of the wood and other material.

See also

sustain in Danish: Sustain
sustain in German: Sustain
sustain in French: Sustain
sustain in Dutch: Sustain
sustain in Japanese: サステイン
sustain in Norwegian: Sustain
sustain in Portuguese: Sustentação (som)
sustain in Russian: Сустейн

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abide, abide with, admit, advocate, affirm, afford support, allege in support, allow, answer, approve, argue for, assert, attest, authenticate, authorize, back, back up, be exposed to, be subjected to, bear, bear out, bear up, bear up under, bear with, beef up, befriend, bide, board, bolster, bolster up, brace, brace up, brave, bread, brook, buoy, buoy up, buttress, care for, carry, carry on, case harden, certify, champion, cherish, circumstantiate, coddle, confirm, conserve, contend for, continue, continue to be, copyright, corroborate, cosset, counter, cradle, crutch, cultivate, cushion, defeat time, defend, defy time, digest, dine, document, dry-nurse, dwell, encounter, endorse, endure, espouse, exist, experience, extend, favor, feed, feel, finance, float, float high, fodder, fondle, forage, fortify, foster, fund, gird, give support, go, go on, go through, grass, gratify, graze, guard, hang in, hang in there, hang tough, harden, have, hold, hold on, hold out, hold up, invigorate, keep, keep afloat, keep alive, keep going, keep intact, keep inviolate, keep on, keep safe, keep up, know, labor under, last, last long, last out, lavish care on, lend support, lengthen, live, live on, live through, lug, lump, lump it, mainstay, maintain, make a plea, meat, meet, meet up with, meet with, mess, mother, nerve, not destroy, not endanger, not expend, not use up, not waste, nourish, nurse, nurture, nutrify, pack, pamper, pass through, pasture, patent, pay, perdure, perennate, perpetuate, persevere, persist, persist in, pillow, plead for, preserve, prevail, probate, prolong, prop, prop up, protect, protract, prove, provision, put up with, ratify, rebut, recognize, refresh, refute, regale, register, reinforce, reinvigorate, remain, reply, respond, restrengthen, retain, ride high, riposte, run, run on, run up against, sanction, satisfy, save, say in defense, see, shore, shore up, shoulder, spare, speak for, speak up for, spend, spoon-feed, stand, stand by, stand for, stand under, stand up for, stay, stay on, steel, stick, stick up for, stiffen, stomach, strengthen, subsidize, subsist, substantiate, subvention, subventionize, suckle, suffer, support, survive, take up with, tarry, taste, temper, tide over, tolerate, tote, toughen, underbrace, undergird, undergo, underlie, underpin, underset, upbear, uphold, upkeep, uplift, upraise, urge reasons for, validate, verify, waft, warrant, wear, wear well, weather, wet-nurse, wine and dine, withstand
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