1630s, from Modern Latin substratum (plural substrata), noun use of neuter singular past participle of Latin substernere "to spread underneath," from sub "under, below, beneath" (see sub-) + sternere "to spread out, lay down, stretch out," from nasalized form of PIE root *stere- "to spread."
Entries linking to substratum
In Latin assimilated to following -c-, -f-, -g-, -p-, and often -r- and -m-. In Old French the prefix appears in the full Latin form only "in learned adoptions of old Latin compounds" [OED], and in popular use it was represented by sous-, sou-; as in French souvenir from Latin subvenire, souscrire (Old French souzescrire) from subscribere, etc.
The original meaning is now obscured in many words from Latin (suggest, suspect, subject, etc.). The prefix is active in Modern English, sometimes meaning "subordinate" (as in subcontractor); "inferior" (17c., as in subhuman); "smaller" (18c.); "a part or division of" (c. 1800, as in subcontinent).
It forms all or part of: consternate; consternation; construct; construction; destroy; destruction; industry; instruct; instruction; instrument; obstruct; obstruction; perestroika; prostrate; sternum; sternocleidomastoid; strain (n.2) "race, stock, line;" stratagem; strategy; strath; strato-; stratocracy; stratography; stratosphere; stratum; stratus; straw; stray; street; strew; stroma; structure; substrate; substratum; substructure.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit strnoti "strews, throws down;" Avestan star- "to spread out, stretch out;" Greek stronymi "strew," stroma "bedding, mattress," sternon "breast, breastbone;" Latin sternere "to stretch, extend;" Old Church Slavonic stira, streti "spread," strana "area, region, country;" Russian stroji "order;" Gothic straujan, Old High German strouwen, Old English streowian "to sprinkle, strew;" Old English streon "strain," streaw "straw, that which is scattered;" Old High German stirna "forehead," strala "arrow, lightning bolt;" Old Irish fo-sernaim "spread out," srath "a wide river valley;" Welsh srat "plain."