\ ˈskers How to pronounce scarce (audio) \
scarcer; scarcest

Definition of scarce

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand : not plentiful or abundant
2 : intentionally absent made himself scarce at inspection time



Definition of scarce (Entry 2 of 2)

: scarcely, hardly scarce was independence half a century old, when a … split occurred— John McPhee

Other Words from scarce


scarceness noun

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: Adjective However, if patients don’t respond to these treatments, additional therapy options are scarce. Kaitlin Sullivan, NBC News, 10 Sep. 2022 Data on how much business and first class cabin bookings have increased is scarce, since most airlines keep such specifics confidential. Vivienne Walt, Fortune, 10 Sep. 2022 Folks on the narrow island bike to work because everything’s close, gas is expensive and parking is scarce. Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2022 The water industry knows how to address the neglect, and money is needed, but experience shows that leadership and workforce capacity go far even when money is scarce. WSJ, 9 Sep. 2022 Riney helped lead the five-hospital health system and its 33,000 employees through the coronavirus pandemic, diversifying Henry Ford’s supply chain problems when masks, gloves and gowns were scarce, and through staffing challenges. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, 8 Sep. 2022 The restaurant on Northlake Boulevard is a clam’s throw from the town of Westlake, Loxahatchee Groves, the Acreage and golf-and-country-club Ibis — a food desert where retail stores and restaurants are scarce. Phillip Valys, Sun Sentinel, 7 Sep. 2022 And auto makers and retailers enjoyed hefty profit margins when goods were scarce and Americans were spending robustly. Christopher Rugaber, ajc, 7 Sep. 2022 After World War I, jobs were scarce and income for many families in Kentucky was low., 6 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scarce.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of scarce


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for scarce


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

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Time Traveler for scarce

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

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Last Updated

14 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Scarce.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for scarce


\ ˈskers How to pronounce scarce (audio) \
scarcer; scarcest

Kids Definition of scarce

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not plentiful Food was scarce during the war.



Kids Definition of scarce (Entry 2 of 2)

: hardly, scarcely … I could scarce conceal a shudder when he laid his hand upon my arm.— Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

More from Merriam-Webster on scarce

Nglish: Translation of scarce for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scarce for Arabic Speakers


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