\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In her spare time, Ceres enjoyed tending to the flower and vegetable gardens around her home and cooking traditional West Indian dishes for her family and friends., "Ceres Millicent Surgeon," 10 Sep. 2019 Lauren is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in human evolutionary biology department at Harvard, and counsels children and adults in her spare time. National Geographic, "Expedition Leaders," 10 Sep. 2019 So the crews worked on car 19, sometimes on city time and sometimes in their spare time. Carl Nolte,, "World’s oldest operating cable car rolling back to life this weekend," 7 Sep. 2019 Of course, the question is, what do Mother Superiors think about in their spare time? Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Challenge of Margaret Atwood," 5 Sep. 2019 His professor suggested the subject was better suited to a full feature, and Beacham worked on it in his spare time. Jennifer Ouellette, Wired, "Carnival Row brings a Richly Textured Fantasy World to Life," 4 Sep. 2019 His professor suggested the subject was better suited to a full feature, and Beacham worked on it in his spare time. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Review: Carnival Row brings a richly textured fantasy world to vibrant life," 3 Sep. 2019 There are numerous tasks on your to-do list, but don't worry: There should be some spare time to complete them as the week unfolds. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Sept. 1, 2019: Aries, fuel up and get stuff done; Gemini, write your own narrative," 1 Sep. 2019 In her spare time Kathy enjoyed playing golf, belonging to two golf leagues in Bartlett, IL and one in Florida., "Deaths in South Florida: 8/25," 25 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Attorneys for the parents, meanwhile, are certain to ask Talwani to spare their clients from time behind bars. Los Angeles Times, "In college admissions scandal a judge must decide: Does it matter how much parents paid?," 10 Sep. 2019 Enlisting a helping hand to guide you through the process can spare you logistical headaches and financial setbacks. Stephanie Walden, USA TODAY, "Getting ready to buy your first home? Check out these tips first," 12 Aug. 2019 That fish was just old enough and squishy enough to cause a mighty spa-LATT right on skipper’s chest, with fish-parts to spare landing on the other passengers. Bulletin Board, Twin Cities, "Sunday Bulletin Board: What’s the most spectacular view you’ve seen since … well, since yesterday?," 4 Aug. 2019 But Hollywood should spare us the cant about standing up for creative rights when too many people in Tinsel Town are concentrating on bending low to appease the Chinese censors. John Fund, National Review, "American Movie Studios Are Wrong to Appease Chinese Censors," 28 July 2019 How did a Power 5 program with money to spare get this far behind? Amie Just,, "The Les Miles Show brings signs of life, hope to Kansas football program," 28 June 2019 Some threw their babies overboard to spare them what lay ahead. USA Today, "Were Wanda Tucker’s ancestors America’s first slaves? A difficult search for answers in far-away Angola," 22 Aug. 2019 The sentence delivered Monday to Pamela Hupp was the result of a plea deal reached in June to spare her the death penalty for fatally shooting Louis Gumpenberger, 33, in her O’Fallon home in August 2016, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jeff Truesdell,, "'Monster' Gets Life in Prison for Murder Staged to Frame Man Who Suspected Her in His Wife's Killing," 13 Aug. 2019 All her books, Morrison insisted, were love stories; none more than the one depicting the love of a mother sane and steady enough to spare her child from bondage. Karen R. Long,, "Lorain’s Toni Morrison captured African-American lives in luminous fiction that won over the world: Karen R. Long," 11 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 But the ability to fan out those slideover apps or swipe through them turns a sort-of-nice feature into what amounts to having a spare iPhone sitting on the right hand side of your screen. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "iPadOS impressions: flexible and powerful, but is it intuitive?," 6 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about spare

Statistics for spare

Last Updated

15 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spare

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

What made you want to look up spare? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


recurring in steady succession

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!