ra·​tion | \ ˈra-shən How to pronounce ration (audio) , ˈrā- How to pronounce ration (audio) \

Definition of ration

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a food allowance for one day
b rations plural : food, provisions
2 : a share especially as determined by supply


rationed; rationing\ ˈra-​sh(ə-​)niŋ How to pronounce ration (audio) , ˈrā-​ \

Definition of ration (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to supply with or put on rations
2a : to distribute as rations often used with out
b : to distribute equitably
c : to use sparingly

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Examples of ration in a Sentence

Noun The soldiers were given their rations for the day. The horse was fed its ration of oats. weekly sugar and butter rations Verb During the war, the government rationed gasoline. the region has had to ration water during times of drought
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The county’s health care facilities are buckling under the current surge, forced to ration oxygen, turn away ambulances, and treat patients in corridors. Chronicle Staff, SFChronicle.com, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: Jan. 7-13," 21 Jan. 2021 Rationing plans Working under the initial assumption that supplies would be scarce, health systems developed plans to ethically ration treatment access by randomly selecting patients to receive it. Christopher Snowbeck, Star Tribune, "Slow uptake in Minnesota for promising new COVID-19 therapy," 9 Jan. 2021 Los Angeles County hospitals are so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients that EMS workers were told Monday to ration oxygen, according to reports. David Aaro, Fox News, "Los Angeles County ambulance crews told to ration oxygen amid surge in COVID-19 cases: report," 5 Jan. 2021 Facilities that need to begin to ration critical care resources must notify local and state public health departments immediately. Los Angeles Times, "California hits new 1-day COVID-19 death record as hospitals plan for potential rationing," 30 Dec. 2020 Hundreds of such trolleys that have been parked along the highways are also being used to carry ration and even fuel for cooking and bikes. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "Meals for cops and free period pads: India’s farmers join a new era of inventive, inclusive protest," 11 Dec. 2020 Hospitals in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley have been inundated with COVID-19 patients for weeks and may be forced to ration care soon. Erin Allday, SFChronicle.com, "ICU bed crisis escalates as California stumbles through relentless winter surge," 5 Jan. 2021 That spike in cases would put Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles in the position of needing to ration care, CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor said Monday. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Record Covid-19 hospitalizations in US could soon force health experts to ration care," 29 Dec. 2020 In extreme circumstances, hospitals could become forced to ration care — with doctors no longer pulling out all the stops to save a life and instead strategizing about where to most effectively use resources and equipment. Los Angeles Times, "L.A. County hospitals, at the breaking point, turn away ambulances," 29 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As insulin prices have soared, some people with diabetes who rely on the medication to regulate levels of glucose in their blood and prevent life-threatening complications have been forced to turn to lower-quality products or to ration their supply. Jamie Munks, chicagotribune.com, "New year brings new laws, including insulin price limit, while minimum wage goes up another dollar," 30 Dec. 2020 Faced with this reality, the state is updating its planning guide for how hospitals would ration care if necessary. Amina Khan Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Coronavirus Today: Has California been too lax?," 22 Dec. 2020 Americans would be asked to ration essential supplies and send their children around the world to fight and die in wars of unfathomable destruction. Los Angeles Times, "Families are turning obituaries into final pleas to avoid COVID-19," 26 Dec. 2020 Like 44 other local health departments across the state, Kent County will have to ration its vaccine supply until more vaccines become available. Ted Roelofs, Detroit Free Press, "Who gets COVID-19 vaccine next? Mich. health officials face 'incredibly difficult decisions'," 22 Dec. 2020 Grocery stores move to ration key items as the coronavirus surges, but experts are bullish on the supply chain. Washington Post, "Shoppers are panic-buying toilet paper. This time, there should be enough to go around.," 19 Nov. 2020 The Fed was forced to ration the supplies of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters based on banks’ previous orders. The Economist, "Changing down Why money is changing hands much less frequently," 21 Nov. 2020 At the height of the first wave, Italy had just over 4,000 ICU Covid patients, with doctors in some cases forced to ration intensive-care beds. Xie Yu, WSJ, "U.S. Reports Highest Daily Coronavirus Cases Since July," 17 Oct. 2020 An official said that was partly because of timing — Howard only received its funding in June — and partly because the county wants to ration the money, given the uncertainty over another stimulus package. Washington Post, "As communities suffer, local officials struggle to disburse federal aid. Now, a deadline looms.," 20 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ration.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ration


circa 1711, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1834, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ration


French, from Latin ration-, ratio computation, reason

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Time Traveler for ration

Time Traveler

The first known use of ration was circa 1711

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Statistics for ration

Last Updated

26 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ration.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ration. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for ration


How to pronounce ration (audio) How to pronounce ration (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ration

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a particular amount of food that is given to one person or animal for one day
: food or supplies
: a particular amount of something (such as gasoline or food) that the government allows you to have when there is not enough of it



English Language Learners Definition of ration (Entry 2 of 2)

: to control the amount of (something, such as gasoline or food) that people are allowed to have especially when there is not enough of it


ra·​tion | \ ˈra-shən How to pronounce ration (audio) , ˈrā-shən \

Kids Definition of ration

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a food allowance for one day
2 rations plural : provision entry 1 sense 1
3 : the amount each person is allowed by an authority The government set a gas ration.


rationed; rationing

Kids Definition of ration (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to control the amount an individual can use The government rationed gas.
2 : to use sparingly Ration your water on the hike.


ra·​tion | \ ˈrash-ən How to pronounce ration (audio) , ˈrā-shən How to pronounce ration (audio) \

Medical Definition of ration

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a food allowance for one day
rationed; rationing\ ˈrash-​(ə-​)niŋ How to pronounce ration (audio) , ˈrāsh-​ How to pronounce ration (audio) \

Medical Definition of ration (Entry 2 of 2)

: to supply with or put on rations

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Comments on ration

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