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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Stefaniak reserved an Airbnb about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the airport in San Jose for her final night in the country. Tamara Lush, The Seattle Times, "Costa Ricans arrest resort guard in death of Florida woman," 5 Dec. 2018 Sunday nights might typically be reserved for staying in and cozying up with the latest Netflix series, but last night the Dia Art Foundation hosted their Fall Night gala honoring artist Nancy Holt. Vogue, "George Condo, Raf Simons, and More Turn Out for Dia’s Fall Night Gala," 5 Nov. 2018 Season with salt and pepper and roast, tossing after 12 minutes, until golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total; fold in baby kale and reserved bread cubes. Anna Helm Baxter, Good Housekeeping, "Roasted Squash Panzanella," 24 Oct. 2018 Of course, that spot could also be reserved for Taylor's bae, Joe Alwyn. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Fans Think Selena Gomez is Giving a Surprise Performance at the AMAs… And They Might Be Right," 9 Oct. 2018 Unfortunately, Microsoft reserves most of the good stuff for subscribers to Office 365, specifically integrated into the Microsoft 365 package. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft adds video transcription to Microsoft 365 OneDrive to keep corporate content off YouTube," 28 Aug. 2018 In Eldora, Iowa, 67-year-old Julie Duhn reserved the lodge at her local state park and hosted her own Families Belong Together cookout. Ai-jen Poo, Marie Claire, "How These Small Red-State Towns Are Teaming Up to Support Immigrant Families," 20 Aug. 2018 But, Prince William doesn't reserve gift giving to post-baby tokens. Isabel Greenberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton's Citrine Ring Might Not Be a Push Present from Prince William After All," 1 Aug. 2018 Waking up with perfect skin and hair sounds like a myth reserved for the realm of rom-coms. Lauren Swanson, Allure, "15 Pillowcases That'll Transform Your Hair and Skin for the Better," 13 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Hungary is also hoping to get gas supplies in the coming years from recent discoveries by Romania of reserves in the Black Sea. Pablo Gorondi, The Seattle Times, "US says Europe needs diversity from Russian energy supplies," 13 Nov. 2018 Why, a couple of reserves were from Grgas’ hometown of Sibenik, and midfielder Luka Modric was from a town 45 minutes away. Dave Hyde,, "Hyde: Will the World Cup and morning TV end with a Croatian surprise? | Commentary," 14 July 2018 Watch them in their natural habitats at one of the many wetland reserves, including the Tijuana Estuary, Sweetwater National Wildlife Refuge or the Famosa Slough in Point Loma. 13. Carolina Gusman,, "San Diego Comic-Con 2018: 15 free things to do before and after Comic-Con around San Diego County," 13 July 2018 Realmuto, who was selected as one of the National League’s reserves, became the third catcher in Marlins’ history to earn an All-Star selection joining Charles Johnson (1997, 2001) and Paul Lo Duca (2005). Andre C. Fernandez, miamiherald, "Preparing to become a father, Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto receives well-earned All-Star nod," 8 July 2018 Six lions were tranquilized so police could search the area the next day, alongside the reserve’s anti-poaching unit and other specialists. Jewel Wicker, Teen Vogue, "Lions Kill Suspected Rhino Poachers in South Africa," 6 July 2018 Powered by the wind from the Mediterranean Sea, hundreds of flaming kites and explosive balloons have swept into Israel and started some 450 fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves. NBC News, "Israeli border communities fearful of Palestinian protests and threats of fire," 28 June 2018 In 1964, with the Vietnam War heating up, his reserve unit was activated. Frederick N. Rasmussen,, "Robert J. Birrane Sr., decorated Vietnam veteran who rose to senior officer in Coast Guard Auxiliary, dies," 12 June 2018 High levels of estradiol can be a sign that your body is working especially hard to produce eggs, and can mean that your ovarian reserve is getting low. Jennifer Gerson, Marie Claire, "What Kind of Testing Will My Fertility Specialist Conduct?," 1 Oct. 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.

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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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Statistics for reserve

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for reserve

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

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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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on reserve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with reserve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for reserve

Spanish Central: Translation of reserve

Nglish: Translation of reserve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reserve for Arabic Speakers

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