re·serve | \ri-ˈzərv \
reserved; reserving

Definition of reserve 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to hold in reserve : keep back reserve grain for seed

b : to set aside (part of the consecrated elements) at the Eucharist for future use

c : to retain or hold over to a future time or place : defer reserve one's judgment on a plan

d : to make legal reservation of

2 : to set or have set aside or apart reserve a hotel room


noun, often attributive

Definition of reserve (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something reserved or set aside for a particular purpose, use, or reason: such as

a(1) : a military force withheld from action for later decisive use usually used in plural

(2) : forces not in the field but available

(3) : the military forces of a country not part of the regular services also : reservist

b : a tract (as of public land) set apart : reservation

2 : something stored or kept available for future use or need : stock

3 : an act of reserving : qualification

4a : restraint, closeness, or caution in one's words and actions

b : forbearance from making a full explanation, complete disclosure, or free expression of one's mind

5 archaic : secret

6a : money or its equivalent kept in hand or set apart usually to meet liabilities

b : the liquid resources of a nation for meeting international payments

9 : a wine made from select grapes, bottled on the maker's premises, and aged differently from the maker's other wines of the same vintage

in reserve

: held back for future or special use

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from reserve


reservable \ri-ˈzər-və-bəl \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for reserve


keep, retain, detain, withhold, reserve mean to hold in one's possession or under one's control. keep may suggest a holding securely in one's possession, custody, or control. keep this while I'm gone retain implies continued keeping, especially against threatened seizure or forced loss. managed to retain their dignity even in poverty detain suggests a delay in letting go. detained them for questioning withhold implies restraint in letting go or a refusal to let go. withheld information from the authorities reserve suggests a keeping in store for future use. reserve some of your energy for the last mile

Examples of reserve in a Sentence


We reserved a hotel room. This table is reserved for someone else. The seats are reserved under my name. We will reserve this wine for a special occasion. She usually reserved her best dishes for very important dinners.


He had to call upon his inner reserves of strength to keep going. the salesclerk showed great reserve in dealing with the unreasonable demands of the angry customer
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

While quinoa simmers, cook pasta in a large saucepan according to package directions, drain and set aside but reserve pasta water. Jennifer Rude Klett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Table for 1: For solo diners, cooking at home offers many perks," 12 July 2018 Alrosa is exploring ways to trace the source of every diamond, potentially creating narratives for all its gems, something that had been reserved for only the largest stones sold at auction. Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times, "A Diamond Giant Plays Up Its Russian Ties to Appeal to Americans," 11 July 2018 As to be expected, the visibility Markle is giving this particular neckline, which is traditionally reserved for wedding gowns, is going viral., "Wait, So Who Made Meghan Markle’s Beloved Boat Neck Famous?," 10 July 2018 They are reserved for the likes of Leticia, 12, and her brother, Walter, 10., "A migrant child’s days in detention included cleaning toilets," 14 July 2018 Tickets can be reserved beginning at 10 a.m., Wednesday, July 18, at Mitchell Gladstone,, "Eagles announce training camp schedule, open practice dates," 11 July 2018 The center has reserved side orchestra seats for the 2 p.m. show on Wednesday, Aug. 22. Courant Community, "Community News For The Colchester Edition," 10 July 2018 Funeral services are Monday 10 AM at Carlson Funeral Home and are reserved for family and close friends., "Darrell Johnson," 7 July 2018 The Olympics were previously reserved for Kolache Factory employees, but this year, customers were encouraged to participate. Julian Gill, Houston Chronicle, "Katy father of two wins coveted prize for kolache creation," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Gerso Fernandes, who led the 2017 club in scoring, has made 10 of his 13 appearances this season in a reserve role. Sam Mcdowell, kansascity, "A major reason Sporting KC is in first place? A weapon it never had last year," 29 June 2018 At Seton Hall, Walker played in 17 games as a freshman in 2017-18, averaging 1.8 points, 0.9 assists and 0.5 rebounds in a reserve role., "Tulane basketball adds transfer Jordan Walker," 30 May 2018 The Steam have two position players that were chosen as reserves and will play as backups in the game. Scott Springer,, "Six Cincinnati Steam players recognized as All-Stars," 11 July 2018 And Croatian semifinal hero Mandžukić (as well as reserve forward Marko Pjaca) is at Juventus with France’s Matuidi. Brian Straus,, "France vs. Croatia: A First Look at Their World Cup Final Matchup," 11 July 2018 Eichenberg has the agility, confidence and maturity to handle the position after only playing in five games last season as a reserve. Laken Litman, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: 5 players who will impact Notre Dame football's 2018 season," 10 July 2018 The island is surrounded by a marine reserve where the fish populations are robust and the waters clear and beautiful. Ac Shilton, Outside Online, "The Food Adventures We Covet Most," 5 July 2018 Gay was primarily a reserve for the first time last season, his first with the Spurs., "Digest (July 1): Capitals sign center Dowd to one-year contract; Beagle off to Canucks," 3 July 2018 The budget projections only darkened the following year and Lincoln Center had to resort to balancing that year’s $140 million budget by transferring $3.6 million from a funding reserve into operations. Michael Cooper, New York Times, "Turmoil at Lincoln Center: Infighting, Money Troubles, Scrapped Projects," 1 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of reserve


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1648, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for reserve


Middle English, from Anglo-French reserver, from Latin reservare, literally, to keep back, from re- + servare to keep — more at conserve

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about reserve

Phrases Related to reserve

nature reserve

reserve judgment

without reserve

Statistics for reserve

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for reserve

The first known use of reserve was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for reserve



English Language Learners Definition of reserve

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to make arrangements so that you will be able to use or have (something, such as a room, table, or seat) at a later time

: to keep (something) for a special or future use

: to choose to do (something) at a later time



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

: a supply of something that is stored so that it can be used at a later time

: a military force that is additional to the regular forces and that is available if it is needed

: an area of land where animals and plants are given special protection


re·serve | \ri-ˈzərv \
reserved; reserving

Kids Definition of reserve

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to arrange to have set aside and held for someone's use I called to reserve a hotel room.

2 : to keep in store for special use She believed that Sundays should be reserved for family activities.— Carl Hiaasen, Hoot

3 : to keep from using until a future time We need to reserve our strength.

4 : to hold over to a future time or place Reserve judgment until you know the facts.



Kids Definition of reserve (Entry 2 of 2)

1 reserves plural : military forces held back or available for later use

2 : an area of land set apart a nature reserve

3 : caution in words and behavior

4 : something stored for future use oil reserves

5 : an act of setting something aside for future use


re·serve | \ri-ˈzərv \

Medical Definition of reserve 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something stored or kept available for future use or need oxygen reserve — see cardiac reserve

2 : the capacity of a solution to neutralize alkali or acid when its reaction is shifted from one hydrogen-ion concentration to another especially : the capacity of blood or bacteriological media to react with acid or alkali within predetermined and usually physiological limits of hydrogen-ion concentration — compare buffer, buffer solution



Medical Definition of reserve (Entry 2 of 2)

: constituting or having the form or function of a reserve a reserve supply reserve strength

Keep scrolling for more


transitive verb
reserved; reserving

Legal Definition of reserve 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: to keep back or set apart: as

a : to keep (a right, power, or interest) especially by express declaration all rights reserved — compare waive

b : to defer a determination of (a question of law) the justices reserved the question because it was not an issue in the case



Legal Definition of reserve (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something stored or kept available for future use an energy company with various unproven oil reserves

2 : an act of reserving

3 : money kept in a separate account to meet future liabilities

legal reserve

: the minimum amount as determined by government standards of the deposits held by a bank or of the assets of a life insurance company required by law to be kept as reserves

loss reserve

1 : a reserve allocated by a bank for the purpose of absorbing losses a loan loss reserve

2 : an insurance company's reserve representing the discounted value of future payments to be made on losses which may have already occurred

policy reserve

: an insurance company's reserve representing the difference in value between the net premiums and assumed claims for a given year in life insurance

unearned premium reserve

: a reserve of funds which represents premiums paid to an insurance company but not yet applied to policy coverage and from which a policyholder is paid a refund in the event of cancellation prior to the period for which premiums have been paid

with reserve

: with a reserve price and with a seller reserving the right to reject all bids

Note: A sale at auction is with reserve if there is no explicit indication to the contrary.

without reserve

: without a reserve price and with the seller bound to accept the highest bid

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on reserve

What made you want to look up reserve? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!