re·​serve | \ ri-ˈzərv How to pronounce reserve (audio) \
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

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Other Words from reserve


reservable \ ri-​ˈzər-​və-​bəl How to pronounce reservable (audio) \ 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

Verb 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. Noun 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Of the 135 new apartments, 92% are reserved for poor residents. Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, ProPublica, "Separated by Design: Why Affordable Housing Is Built in Areas With High Crime, Few Jobs and Struggling Schools," 25 Nov. 2019 Victor VIRGILEGetty Images Remember when glitter pigments and neon shades were reserved strictly for special occasions or going out? Hana Hong, Marie Claire, "I Tried Spring 2019's Coolest Graphic Makeup Looks," 25 Nov. 2019 Tickets: $25-$30 (reserved); $15 (general admission). Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "How Chris Wolfe returned the Male football program to statewide prominence," 6 Dec. 2019 Wednesday morning, the genre calendar was revealed -- and March 10 is reserved for K-pop. Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle, "Is RodeoHouston 2020 teasing a BTS takeover?," 4 Dec. 2019 Because really, why reserve an eye-color transmutation for the runway, or Halloween night? Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "This Makeup Artist Just Proved the Red Carpet Power of Color Contacts," 3 Dec. 2019 Dough-scooping was reserved for me (just try to pry that cookie scoop out of my hands) but Mara took her job of lightly pressing down each dough ball very seriously. Alison Sherwood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Cookie baking with kids is the stuff of memories ... and a test of patience," 3 Dec. 2019 For decades the idea had been reserved for The Future, but a series of technological breakthroughs and a massive new government research program suggest that faraway day may have finally arrived. Wired, "How to Get Solar Power on a Rainy Day? Beam It From Space," 2 Dec. 2019 Officials have reserved the right to take legal action later against people whom police didn’t immediately arrest. Suzanne Sataline, Quartz, "How one fighter made his escape from the worst battle of Hong Kong’s protests," 30 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Higher levels of reserves will ensure the convertibility of the CFA franc, which is currently threatened by changing French and European fiscal policies. Landry Signé, Quartz Africa, "How the France-backed African CFA franc works as an enabler and barrier to development," 7 Dec. 2019 These forces would be similar to the types of reinforcements announced in May. One of the Patriot anti-missile batteries was held in reserve at the time of the announcement last spring. Fox News, "Pentagon mulls sending up to 7,000 additional forces to Middle East, officials say," 6 Dec. 2019 This is needed as a kind of bridge finance—to pay for essential imports and allow the rebuilding of foreign-exchange reserves, until exports pick up in response to a cheaper currency. The Economist, "Buttonwood The perils and rewards of economies in rehab," 5 Dec. 2019 He was released last November to create a roster spot for cornerback Maurice Canady, who was activated from injured reserve. Daniel Oyefusi,, "Ravens claim center Hronnis Grasu off waivers," 4 Dec. 2019 The Baltimore Ravens activated safety Brynden Trawick from injured reserve. Mark Inabinett |, al, "New York Jets place C.J. Mosley on injured reserve," 4 Dec. 2019 As the Associated Press reported Monday, the Moody's Analytics report found 10 states have a greater than 5 percentage point shortfall in the amount of reserves necessary to survive a moderate recession. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "Report finds Kentucky is among the states least prepared to weather a recession," 3 Dec. 2019 Fangio said Lock will be activated from injured reserve to the active roster. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos coach Vic Fangio still mum on starting quarterback decision," 29 Nov. 2019 Phillips is the first of two possible players the team may return to the 53-man roster from injured reserve. Tyler Dragon,, "Bengals LT Cordy Glenn: 'I haven't played in so long. I've got to finish games.'," 29 Nov. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for reserve

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for reserve

Last Updated

9 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Reserve.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 December 2019.

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More Definitions for reserve


How to pronounce reserve (audio)

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 How to pronounce reserve (audio) \
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 How to pronounce reserve (audio) \

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on reserve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for reserve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with reserve

Spanish Central: Translation of reserve

Nglish: Translation of reserve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reserve for Arabic Speakers

Comments on reserve

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delight or enjoyment

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