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 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb With his plan bogged down in the Legislature, Newsom announced last week that California would reserve a portion of its weekly vaccine supply for teachers and school staff in an attempt to return educators to campus. Taryn Luna, Los Angeles Times, "As recall threat grows, California Gov. Gavin Newsom shifts his governing style, pushing reopenings," 27 Feb. 2021 Fees range from $16 to $20; reserve a session time at oregonlive, "Oaks Park roller rink plans to reopen to skaters Monday," 24 Feb. 2021 Covid-19 restrictions are in place with visitors asked to reserve appointments 48 hours in advance. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Magazines Helped Shape American History," 23 Feb. 2021 With few exceptions, nonessential air travelers will be required starting Monday to reserve three nights in a hotel approved by the government. David Lyons,, "As Canadian snowbirds wrap up Florida trips, they now face tighter border rules back home," 22 Feb. 2021 As a benefit performance for the Beck Center, patrons are asked to reserve a complimentary ticket in advance at, then donate online as they are moved to do so throughout this entertaining experience. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, "Get ready for spring at Transitional Design: Talk of the Towns," 18 Feb. 2021 Until last week, Metro Health was urging schools to reserve in-person learning only for students who needed it most. Andres Picon, San Antonio Express-News, "With COVID's spread abating, San Antonio ISD to invite more students back to campuses," 9 Feb. 2021 Some resorts require season passholders to reserve their ski days in advance too. Gregory Thomas,, "How to plan a safe and successful ski trip to Tahoe during the pandemic," 15 Jan. 2021 Many restaurants require patrons to reserve spaces in advance, limit dining time to two hours or less and clean the structures between uses. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, "'What's a heater gonna do when it's 30 degrees': Restaurants face bleak winter in COVID-19," 16 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Chiefs also welcomed back wide receiver Demarcus Robinson off the reserve/COVID-19 list. Nicole Yang,, "Willie McGinest dismisses the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick argument," 5 Feb. 2021 In addition to those scratches, the Saints also have offensive lineman Will Clapp unavailable this week, as he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday. Amie Just | Staff Writer,, "Saints' Taysom Hill, Latavius Murray inactive for divisional-round playoff game vs. Bucs; see full list," 17 Jan. 2021 The state’s ability to vaccinate those groups was based on the doses that were expected to come from the reserve. oregonlive, "Federal promise of reserve COVID vaccines proves false, jeopardizing Oregon teachers, seniors," 15 Jan. 2021 La’Mical Perine is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the first Jets player to test positive for the coronavirus during the season. Mark Heim |, al, "Jets vs. Patriots live stream (1/3): How to watch NFL Week 17 online, TV, time," 3 Jan. 2021 Perine is being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive for the coronavirus. ... Chronicle News Services,, "Aaron Rodgers says a 3rd MVP would be meaningful, validate his play," 30 Dec. 2020 The Ravens activated wide receiver Dez Bryant from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, the team announced, after a positive test during pregame warmups of Baltimore’s win over the Cowboys sidelined him for two games. Dallas News, "Ravens activate Dez Bryant from reserve/COVID-19 list after missing two games," 16 Dec. 2020 The deadline for the Ravens to activate the two from the reserve/COVID-19 to the active roster for Wednesday’s game is 12:30 p.m. Daniel Oyefusi,, "Report: Ravens Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins not expected to play vs. Steelers despite finishing quarantine," 2 Dec. 2020 The team activated him from the reserve injured/designated to return list on Saturday. Jim Ayello, The Indianapolis Star, "Colts injuries: Ryan Kelly, Michael Pittman, Mo Alie-Cox active against Lions," 1 Nov. 2020

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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Learn More about reserve

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

2 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Reserve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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 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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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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