1 of 2


scarcer; scarcest
: deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand : not plentiful or abundant
: intentionally absent
made himself scarce at inspection time
scarceness noun


2 of 2


: scarcely, hardly
scarce was independence half a century old, when a … split occurredJohn McPhee
Choose the Right Synonym for scarce

infrequent, uncommon, scarce, rare, sporadic mean not common or abundant.

infrequent implies occurrence at wide intervals in space or time.

infrequent family visits

uncommon suggests a frequency below normal expectation.

smallpox is now uncommon in many countries

scarce implies falling short of a standard or required abundance.

jobs were scarce during the Depression

rare suggests extreme scarcity or infrequency and often implies consequent high value.

rare first editions

sporadic implies occurrence in scattered instances or isolated outbursts.

sporadic cases of influenza

Examples of scarce in a Sentence

Adjective Food was getting scarce during the drought. food was a bit scarce last winter Adverb I could scarce believe what I was hearing.
Recent Examples on the Web
The complex military, political, and logistical challenges to getting food, temporary shelter, and medical supplies into the Gaza Strip are leaving the vast majority of Palestinians competing for scarce resources with little cash in a wartime economy. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Feb. 2024 In any economic environment, returns accrue to the scarce factors of production, which in this case is the candidates themselves. Matthew Yglesias, Twin Cities, 31 Jan. 2024 This will be especially helpful in underserved areas where traditional veterinary clinics may be scarce and at animal shelters that don’t have a veterinarian on staff. Lisa Bloch, The Mercury News, 30 Jan. 2024 Frantic lineups for scarce doses when Covid vaccines first became available have long since given way to widespread indifference. Helen Branswell, STAT, 22 Jan. 2024 With governments allocating massive amounts of scarce resources to defense and warfighting in places such as Israel and Ukraine, there are fewer funds left to scale up support for accelerating the deployment of clean energy. Jason Bordoff, Foreign Affairs, 18 Jan. 2024 After more than a decade of an overabundance of capital, cash has suddenly become scarce. Jessica Mathews, Fortune, 26 Jan. 2024 Information on this interplay among background, illumination, and dynamic signals is scarce. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 23 Jan. 2024 She was born and raised in Alaska and now lives in Modesto, a small city in California’s agricultural Central Valley, where mental health services are scarce. Grace Rubenstein, STAT, 18 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'scarce.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English scars, from Anglo-French eschars, escars narrow, stingy, deficient, from Vulgar Latin *excarpsus, literally, plucked out, past participle of Latin excerpere to pluck out — more at excerpt

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of scarce was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near scarce

Cite this Entry

“Scarce.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


scarcer; scarcest
: lacking in quantity or number : not plentiful
food is scarce
scarceness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on scarce

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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