\ ˈsper How to pronounce spare (audio) \
sparer; sparest

Definition of spare

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : not being used especially : held for emergency use a spare tire
2 : being over and above what is needed : superfluous spare time
3 : not liberal or profuse : sparing a spare prose style
4 : healthily lean
5 : not abundant or plentiful


spared; sparing

Definition of spare (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to forbear to destroy, punish, or harm
2 : to refrain from attacking or reprimanding with necessary or salutary severity
3 : to relieve of the necessity of doing or undergoing something spare yourself the trouble
4 : to refrain from : avoid spared no expense
5 : to use or dispense frugally used chiefly in the negative don't spare the syrup
6a : to give up as not strictly needed do you have any cash to spare
b : to have left over or as margin time to spare

intransitive verb

1 : to be frugal
2 : to refrain from doing harm



Definition of spare (Entry 3 of 3)

1a : a spare tire
b : a duplicate (such as a key or a machine part) kept in reserve
2 : the knocking down of all 10 pins with the first 2 balls in a frame in bowling

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Other Words from spare


sparely adverb
spareness noun


spareable \ ˈsper-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce spareable (audio) \ adjective
sparer noun

Synonyms for spare

Synonyms: Adjective

excess, extra, redundant, supererogatory, superfluous, supernumerary, surplus

Synonyms: Verb

nurse, scant, skimp (on), stint (on)

Synonyms: Noun

extra, reserve

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Choose the Right Synonym for spare


lean, spare, lank, lanky, gaunt, rawboned, scrawny, skinny mean thin because of an absence of excess flesh. lean stresses lack of fat and of curving contours. a lean racehorse spare suggests leanness from abstemious living or constant exercise. the gymnast's spare figure lank implies tallness as well as leanness. the lank legs of the heron lanky suggests awkwardness and loose-jointedness as well as thinness. a lanky youth, all arms and legs gaunt implies marked thinness or emaciation as from overwork or suffering. a prisoner's gaunt face rawboned suggests a large ungainly build without implying undernourishment. a rawboned farmer scrawny and skinny imply an extreme leanness that suggests deficient strength and vitality. a scrawny chicken skinny street urchins

meager, scanty, scant, skimpy, spare, sparse mean falling short of what is normal, necessary, or desirable. meager implies the absence of elements, qualities, or numbers necessary to a thing's richness, substance, or potency. a meager portion of meat scanty stresses insufficiency in amount, quantity, or extent. supplies too scanty to last the winter scant suggests a falling short of what is desired or desirable rather than of what is essential. in January the daylight hours are scant skimpy usually suggests niggardliness or penury as the cause of the deficiency. tacky housing developments on skimpy lots spare may suggest a slight falling short of adequacy or merely an absence of superfluity. a spare, concise style of writing sparse implies a thin scattering of units. a sparse population

Examples of spare in a Sentence


a spare pair of gloves I keep a spare set of keys in my desk. He has a spare frame. He was tall and spare. I like her spare style of writing.


No one knows why the gunman shot some people and spared others. Somehow the storm spared our house while nearby buildings were destroyed. She was spared from having to answer any more questions. He wanted to spare his family from the stress he had endured. I could have spared myself the trouble. He spared them the embarrassment of a public apology. If you could spare a cup of sugar, it would save me a trip to the store.


“I've lost the key.” “You'll find a spare in the drawer.” If that one breaks, I've got a spare. Most cars come with spares. He got a strike and two spares.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Who among us doesn’t love looking at real estate listings in their spare time? Selena Barrientos, House Beautiful, "This Bluestone House in Australia Is an Unexpected Find in a Sea of Listings," 11 Sep. 2019 At the same time, the nation’s 10th largest city is home to thousands of empty nesters and retired homeowners with spare bedrooms who are looking for a bit of extra income or companionship. Emily Deruy, The Mercury News, "Pilot program pairs empty nesters with young people doing service year," 3 Sep. 2019 The dining room is spare and calming, like a Japanese teahouse reimagined for a coastal Norwegian town. Liza Weisstuch,, "Tulsa is in the throes of a dining renaissance," 2 Sep. 2019 Year-round rentals would have been permitted for traditional home-sharing in which residents rent out a spare bedroom or a granny flat on their property. San Diego Union-Tribune, "State bill barring Airbnb rental of second homes in San Diego County’s coastal communities has been shelved," 10 July 2019 Compositionally, these songs are fairly spare—a synthesizer, a pulsing drum machine—which allows Yorke’s strange, mesmerizing voice, sometimes raw and sometimes processed, to anchor each piece. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, "Thom Yorke’s “Anima” Is His Best Solo Album," 28 June 2019 Standing like a skyscraper, Rockwell’s Hess is spare and taut. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "A Closer Look at Rockwell’s Four Freedoms," 22 June 2019 Her intention in writing is clarity and simplicity, and some of her poems are spare — influenced by ancient Chinese and Japanese poetry., "Social justice, longing reflected in the spare poems of Davyne Verstandig," 20 June 2019 Linda Gregg, 76, who explored beauty, loss, struggle and desire in award-winning poetry that was spare but intense and deeply evocative, died March 20 in Manhattan. Seattle Times Staff & News Services, The Seattle Times, "This week’s passages," 29 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Indeed, Vodafone is trying to spare investors this pain entirely. Washington Post, "Vodafone’s $4.5 Billion Happy Meal for Hedge Funds," 18 Sep. 2019 And Purdey, the lone female, on looks alone, would take after Winchester, her father and an intense bird dog with style to spare. Anchorage Daily News, "Advice on how to pick a puppy (from someone who picked the whole litter)," 17 Sep. 2019 Ehrmantraut, who has a fondness for Ziegler, unsuccessfully tries to convince Fring to spare the man. Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times, "Win or lose, Jonathan Banks is amped for the Emmys: ‘Hell, it’s a great meal’," 17 Sep. 2019 And coach Matt Nagy, attached to the hip of an official on the Bears sideline, machine-gunned his timeout signal with a fraction of a second to spare. Dan Wiederer,, "Mile-High magic: A fourth-and-15 dart from Mitch Trubisky and a clutch kick from Eddy Pineiro give the Bears a last-second miracle," 15 Sep. 2019 The soldiers had killed a number of those in Muriqi's village, but those who visited Muriqi's house decided to spare his family., "Vedat Muriqi: 7 Things to Know About the Premier League Linked Kosovo Forward," 15 Sep. 2019 Martin ended Jones’ final drive of the half with a one-handed interception while falling to his back with 38 seconds to spare. J.c. Carnahan,, "Edgewater tops Jones in Orlando high school football showdown," 10 Sep. 2019 The 48-yard field goal that made it 38-0 was drilled straight down the middle with at least 10 yards to spare. Michael Casagrande |, al, " instant analysis: What Alabama achieved in 52-point blowout," 7 Sep. 2019 Instead the West should try to spare Syria’s suffering by offering strictly humanitarian assistance and threatening retribution for heinous acts, such as the use of chemical weapons. The Economist, "Syria will poison the region for years to come," 5 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Hours later, the defaced portrait was taken down and replaced with a spare. Amy Qin,, "Wang Guodong, who painted and maintained Mao Zedong’s official portrait, dies at 88," 29 Aug. 2019 The headpiece has humble beginnings: When reupholstering his mother’s couch in 1987, former apprentice pattern-maker Ralph Bruno found himself with some spare foam., "A History of Football in 100 Objects," 28 Aug. 2019 When her friend gets taken in for questioning, and ever dearer things begin to vanish, the novel shifts subtly from whatdunit to howcouldit, Ogawa's spare and affecting prose leaving ample room for the dread to creep in. Wired, "The Memory Police," 20 Aug. 2019 The trailer-tow group IV ($1,195) includes a class IV receiver hitch, 7-/4-pin wiring harness, trailer brake control and compact spare tie. Jeff Yip, Houston Chronicle, "Dodge plays to muscle car niche with power, technology," 16 Aug. 2019 My medicine cabinet is spare and extremely functional. Lauren Larson, Allure, "I Want an Elaborate Skin-Care Routine, But My Face Just Can't Take It," 4 Aug. 2019 The investigators gave the woman a spare set of pants and went back to her house with her—where their boots were immediately covered with crawling larvae, many times more than would be normal on a property that size. Maryn Mckenna, WIRED, "The Terrifying Unknowns of an Exotic Invasive Tick," 28 June 2019 Heard on the Street In the past, the airline could swap planes more easily to cover trips, and spares would go into service. Scott Mccartney, WSJ, "A Nightmare Summer for American Airlines," 10 July 2019 To Ori Lichtik’s spare but cunningly hypnotic score, the dancers spend long swaths of time in tight clusters, drawing from a movement palette that expands teasingly slowly. Janine Parker,, "Much to relish from Ballet BC at Jacob’s Pillow," 21 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spare.' 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 spare


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1907, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for spare


Middle English, from Old English spær sparing, scant; akin to Old High German spar spare


Middle English, from Old English sparian; akin to Old High German sparōn to spare, Old English spær, adjective, scant

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Statistics for spare

Last Updated

13 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spare

The first known use of spare was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for spare



English Language Learners Definition of spare

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: kept as something extra that can be used if it is needed
: available to be used in whatever way you want
: not needed by you and available to be shared or given to someone else



English Language Learners Definition of spare (Entry 2 of 3)

: to choose not to punish or harm (someone)
: to not destroy or harm (something)
: to prevent (someone or something) from experiencing or being affected by something unpleasant, harmful, etc.



English Language Learners Definition of spare (Entry 3 of 3)

: something extra that is kept to be used if it is needed
bowling : the achievement of knocking down all 10 pins with the first two balls


\ ˈsper How to pronounce spare (audio) \
spared; sparing

Kids Definition of spare

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : to keep from being punished or harmed : show mercy to The king promised to spare the prisoner.
2 : to free from having to go through something difficult This afternoon … he was spared any disagreeable scenes.— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
3 : to keep from using or spending More pancakes, please, and don't spare the syrup.
4 : to give up especially as not really needed Can you spare a few minutes?
5 : to have left over I got there with time to spare.


sparer; sparest

Kids Definition of spare (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : held in reserve (as for an emergency) a spare tire
2 : being over what is needed spare time
3 : somewhat thin a spare figure
4 : scanty a spare diet



Kids Definition of spare (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : a replacement or duplicate piece or part
2 : the knocking down of all ten bowling pins with the first two balls

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More from Merriam-Webster on spare

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spare

Spanish Central: Translation of spare

Nglish: Translation of spare for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spare for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about spare

Comments on spare

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to be made up of

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