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sub·sist / səbˈsist/ • v. [intr.] 1. maintain or support oneself, esp. at a minimal level: thousands of refugees subsist on international handouts. ∎  [tr.] archaic provide sustenance for: the problem of subsisting the poor in a period of high bread prices.2. chiefly Law remain in being, force, or effect. ∎  (subsist in) be attributable to: the effect of genetic maldevelopment may subsist in chromosomal mutation.DERIVATIVES: sub·sist·ent / -ənt/ adj.