Cultural Watch

Word of the Day – sustainability

(DICTIONARY.COM) April 23, 2021

SUSTAINABILITY / suh-stey-nuhbil-i-tee / noun


The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance


Sustainability is based on a simple and long-recognized factual premise: Everything that humans require for their survival and well-being depends, directly or indirectly, on the natural environment. —NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL, “SUSTAINABILITY AND THE U.S. EPA,” 2011


Sustainability, now most commonly meaning “the quality of not depleting natural resources,” is a transparent compound of the adjective sustainable “able to be supported or maintained,” and the common noun suffix –ity. The oldest usage of sustainability was as a legal term “the capacity of being sustained as true, or upheld as valid by legal argument” (1835). The current environmental sense, specifically mentioning wildlife and ecosystems, arose about 1980.