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 Freshman Tre Donaldson and reserve big man Stretch Akingbola each finished with two points. Tom Green |, al, 2 Aug. 2022 The company currently allows customers to reserve their car in advance with a $2,000 deposit due 45 days after the first car takes flight. Dana Givens, Robb Report, 29 July 2022 Although self-guided, walkers need to reserve a place on the trail at the start of the year, with spaces severely limited. Joe Minihane, CNN, 25 July 2022 Leadership at the big banks may wait to see how things play out and reserve making cuts until September. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 18 July 2022 Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill chose to reserve the team’s opening statement until the prosecution is finished presenting its case. Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel, 18 July 2022 So hospitals run programs, broadly known as antibiotic stewardship, that monitor which drugs are being used and reserve the most precious compounds as last-report options. Wired, 15 July 2022 All others may reserve tickets starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 20 by visiting Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, 11 July 2022 Lotteries, some of which are available at, can give campers the chance to reserve especially competitive sites before traditional booking windows open. Erin E. Williams,, 10 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Diop, who played for Arena with the Los Angeles Galaxy, is expected to provide depth as the Revolution lost reserve goalkeeper Jacob Jackson to season-ending knee surgery., 4 Aug. 2022 That department lost its reserve rig, fire-fighting equipment and dealt with about three feet of water in their station, after manning search and rescues until the National Guard arrived. Krista Johnson, The Courier-Journal, 4 Aug. 2022 Patrick’s injury was preceded by a torn ACL for reserve running back Damarea Crockett, who played in 12 games last year and figured to get heavy work during the three-game preseason. The Salt Lake Tribune, 3 Aug. 2022 Perhaps bank-like entities extend loans and create deposits settled in a fractional reserve of bitcoin. Steve H. Hanke, National Review, 2 Aug. 2022 In their place, Ortiz called up two defenders from America’s U-20 reserve team. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 2 Aug. 2022 Limited to 1,500 pieces, functions on this watch include a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock and a three-day power reserve. Laurie Brookins, Robb Report, 1 Aug. 2022 The trade deadline looms at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the Sox made a move Monday, acquiring reliever Jake Diekman from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for reserve catcher Reese McGuire and a player to be named or cash considerations. Lamond Pope, Chicago Tribune, 1 Aug. 2022 Women in the new study carrying an APOE4 gene did not see the same benefits to their cognitive reserve from additional physical and mental activities. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 21 July 2022 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near reserve



reserve account

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Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Reserve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for reserve


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


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