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

Other Words from reserve


reservable \ ri-​ˈzər-​və-​bəl How to pronounce reserve (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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Howard had told the Clemson registrar to reserve 40 beds for incoming football players, with the coach planning to provide the names on Sept. 1, 1947. Mark Inabinett |, al, 31 Dec. 2021 With limited exceptions, those who wish to venture farther during summertime must reserve a seat on a bus operated by a park concessionaire ( Washington Post, 3 Sep. 2021 Nevertheless, more than 600 people have agreed to pay between $200,000 and $250,000 to reserve a seat aboard one of the company's space planes. Jackie Wattles, CNN, 11 July 2021 In a large shallow bowl, toss the asparagus and scallions (reserve the dark green slices) with a generous sprinkle of olive oil, salt, and pepper., 25 May 2021 Fans can reserve a time slot for a photo with the hall of fame mascot at, with all proceeds benefiting the Orioles Charitable Foundation. Nathan Ruiz,, 7 Apr. 2021 One member who is an accountant reported that 60% of his clients would have laid off staff to reserve cash to pay taxes, if they had been clearly told it would be required. Danny Schwartzman And Davis Senseman, Star Tribune, 18 Mar. 2021 With the package, families or quarantine pods can reserve the resort’s expansive indoor water park after regular operating hours and have it all to themselves. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 11 Nov. 2020 To reserve ad space in the book or for other information, visit Ed Wittenberg, cleveland, 16 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The sale, which is fittingly titled the Petitjean Collection Part II, comprises 28 rare Prancing Horses that will each be offered without reserve on the evening of February 2. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 12 Jan. 2022 Kids 12 years old and younger as well as active-duty and reserve military with a valid ID can enter for free. Megan Rodriguez, San Antonio Express-News, 11 Jan. 2022 The Pacers' reserve swingman scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to give the Celtics a scare. James Boyd, The Indianapolis Star, 11 Jan. 2022 Nature reserve workers in the U.K. have discovered the fossilized remains of a sea creature that existed some 180 million years ago during the Jurassic Period. Bradford Betz, Fox News, 11 Jan. 2022 Turner will join Brown in spending his first year in a reserve role while getting a head start on their careers. Stephen Means, cleveland, 10 Jan. 2022 McGruder, 30, played 17 games this season with the Pistons in a reserve role, after playing in 16 last season. Omari Sankofa Ii, Detroit Free Press, 9 Jan. 2022 Fletcher Cox and tight end Dallas Goedert, on the reserve/Covid-19 list on Monday. New York Times, 8 Jan. 2022 Modern-day hikers place the Lemonadeberry seeds in their canteens to add flavor and nutrients to their water reserve. Michael Harrelson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Jan. 2022

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

Learn More About reserve

Time Traveler for reserve

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near reserve



reserve account

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for reserve

Last Updated

13 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Reserve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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 : defer



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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on reserve

Nglish: Translation of reserve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reserve for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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