\ 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

Basements can be transformed for many different uses, including a home office, kid’s playroom, entertainment center, exercise space, artist’s studio, or spare bedroom. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How to Finish Your Basement," 18 Apr. 2019 The southern stretch of Italy’s Puglia region, set between the Ionian and Adriatic seas, is spare but beautiful country that insiders love to keep to themselves. Andrew Sessa, WSJ, "Three Puglia Properties for Your Next Italian Escape," 22 May 2019 White and bright blue, spare and austere, Paros was famous in antiquity for its soft, glowing marble. Adam Gopnik, Town & Country, "My First Visit to the Greek Islands Turned Out to Be a Journey Home," 20 May 2019 From a trip to North Wales, to the launch of the King's Cup regatta, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge haven't had much spare time to welcome their latest family member. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton and Prince William Will Reportedly Meet Baby Archie Soon and We Can't Wait," 13 May 2019 Lots of work goes into the before and after, so Chapman shared her personal snapshots of the week with Vogue—from the pre-show prep to the post-show celebrations and a few spare moments for tourist activities, too. Emily Farra, Vogue, "Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman Shares Photos From the Label’s Spring 2020 Bridal Show in Barcelona," 30 Apr. 2019 Multifunctional Ottomans: Love using yours as both a spare seat and a makeshift table? Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "Why You Should Be Using Outdoor Fabric for Basically Everything," 18 Apr. 2019 This eatery’s famous spare ribs tossed in a hoisin sweet chili glaze will go with Copper Tail Brewing’s The Unholy Trippel. Lauren Delgado,, "Disney Springs restaurants serving special barbecue dishes, beer pairings this summer," 28 June 2018 In her spare time, Meiler, who serves on the board of directors for the Vermont Senior Games, visits local exercise facilities to distribute fliers and spread the word about senior athletics. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "Meet Flo Filion Meiler, the 84-Year-Old Track and Field Athlete With Over 775 Medals," 26 Apr. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Or perhaps your father, always something of a begrudging recipient of his own status, has chosen to spare you, instead opting for a simple lord or lady. Elizabeth Holmes, Town & Country, "An Open Letter to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's New Royal Baby," 7 May 2019 With that in mind, spare a thought for Morgan Stanley’s equity analysts today, who reiterated their overweight recommendation for Chinese equities on April 30. Mike Bird, WSJ, "The Painful Investment Recommendation of the Week Goes to…," 6 May 2019 Separately, Florida's governor recently sought a concession from the federal government to spare Florida from offshore oil drilling in federal waters, that is, in waters beyond the three-mile state waters limit. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "States will vote on these energy and environment issues in midterm elections," 4 Nov. 2018 An internet troll with extra money to spare on billboards? Michael Mcgough, sacbee, "LeBron to the Kings? Likely impossible, but someone bought billboards to give it a try," 25 June 2018 The latter is a taste of home, a classic Chicago sandwich condiment, Berkeley-fied by a couple of real-life urban homesteaders with enough good-for-you organics, and even-better intentions, to spare. Leilani Marie Labong, San Francisco Chronicle, "Peace, love and a ’70s vibe rock a Berkeley home," 1 June 2018 Score another internet point for J.K. Rowling, who manages to always keep Twitter fun...and with plenty of wizardly references to spare. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "J.K. Rowling Trolls Donald Trump With a "Harry Potter" Reference," 21 Apr. 2018 In an apparent attempt to spare the President's blushes, the administration eventually set up a commission to probe voter fraud in the 2016 election, on which Vice President Mike Pence was a key member. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Border crisis is Trump's latest war on straw men," 6 Apr. 2018 Any closet can spare an extra hanger for just one of these seasonal picks. Glamour, "26 Spring Dresses Under $100 to Buy Now," 14 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That’s enough for three full air regiments of 24 fighters each, plus four spares. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "What’s Going on With Russia’s New Stealth Fighter?," 18 May 2019 In London this week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—and most of the planet’s photographers—welcomed little Prince Archie into the world, the spare dutifully producing his (half-American) heir. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "A Modest Proposal: Let’s Make Trump a King," 10 May 2019 But beyond the gorgeous bottles, high-end brands are also taking a spare-no-expense approach to formulating what goes into them to deliver results that are truly worth posting about. Glamour, "Beauty Awards: The 17 Best Skin Care Products of 2019," 25 Mar. 2019 Once there, airlines are left without their usual ground crews, staff or spare planes. Alison Sider, WSJ, "United Airlines to Review ‘Worst Travel Nightmare’," 21 Jan. 2019 The installation, spread over several galleries, is spare and likewise lends coherence to what could have been a kind of painterly cacophony. Peter Plagens, WSJ, "‘Charline von Heyl: Snake Eyes’ Review: A Pro in Need of Poetry," 18 Dec. 2018 Visitors enter through a narrow passage into a spare, traditional looking chapel whose apse wall is pockmarked with charcoal pieces framing a wooden cross. Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times, "The Most Surprising Entry in Venice’s Architecture Biennale? The Vatican’s," 25 May 2018 Having a spare means a sharp blade on hand and ready to go at a moment's notice. Roy Berendson, Popular Mechanics, "Do I Need To Change My Lawnmower Blades?," 22 Jan. 2019 That's enough to fit out a wing of 72 aircraft, divided into three squadrons of 24 planes each, with eight spares. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Air Force Is Buying New F-15s After All," 19 Feb. 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

9 Jun 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

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


showing great care, attention, and effort

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