\ 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 negativedon'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

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

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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

Adjective 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. Verb 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. Noun “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 No food will be served on the first flights and customers will be asked to sit apart from others not in their party, though only where spare seats are available. Siddharth Vikram Philip,, "EasyJet Among First Carriers in Europe to Plan Restart," 20 May 2020 There was not a single spare seat on the plane, nor on many of the 108 others that departed for the same destination that day. The Economist, "A catchy beat Infections at nightclubs mar South Korea’s relaxation of restrictions," 16 May 2020 Ogawa, a spare writer who often withholds details, never explains how this inexorably shrinking world came to be, which only deepens its eeriness. The Atlantic Culture Desk, The Atlantic, "20 Books to Read in Quarantine This Summer," 15 May 2020 According to the press release, Malone spent any spare moment away from his 2019 tour, sniffing rosés with medalled winemaker Alexis Cornu. Michelle Santiago Cortés,, "Let’s Talk About Post Malone’s Rosé Brand," 14 May 2020 That would save time for consumers and spare airlines and operators the cost of refunds in some cases. Lorne Cooke, USA TODAY, "'Not going to be a normal summer': European Union unveils plans to save vacations amid coronavirus," 13 May 2020 Because business is at a near-standstill in the kidney-transplant world, Morrison found himself with a lot of spare time. Robert Kuznia, CNN, "Thousands of people want to be exposed to Covid-19 for science," 13 May 2020 DeWine said suggested his goal was weighted to relatively spare poor schools. Rich Exner, cleveland, "See how much each Ohio school district will lose under Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus-related budget cut," 6 May 2020 Just double-check there aren't any spare pieces lying around when they're done. Bianca Rodriguez, Marie Claire, "Virtual Party Ideas for Your Quarantine Birthday," 4 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The soldier who is a split second quicker on the draw may walk away from a firefight unscathed; the ship that sinks an enemy vessel first may spare itself a volley of missiles. Paul Scharre, Wired, "Are AI-Powered Killer Robots Inevitable?," 19 May 2020 The latest royal decree by King Salman could spare the death penalty for at least six men from the country’s minority Shiite community who allegedly committed crimes while under the age of 18. NBC News, "Saudi Arabia ends death penalty for minors and floggings," 27 Apr. 2020 Recognizing the relationship between parental and child anxiety suggests an important means of prevention and intervention: Because anxiety is only partially genetic, a change in parenting style may well help spare a child’s mental health. Kate Julian, The Atlantic, "The Anxious Child," 14 Apr. 2020 The jet had only a 3-hour window to accept the supplies and took off with just 3 minutes to spare, the paper reported. Fox News, "New England Patriots plane returns from China with coronavirus N95 masks," 3 Apr. 2020 So, spare the argument about Sexton not being on a winning team, which Herro supporters will likely lean on in defense of that questionable pick. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Collin Sexton deserves Rising Stars spot, title -- even if NBA assistants got it wrong again," 31 Jan. 2020 Clemency might spare one of the condemned but will forever elude Bernadine. Rumaan Alam, The New Republic, "Clemency Grapples With the Banal Evil of the Death Penalty," 17 Jan. 2020 There were more murders in Louisville last year than in 2018, and the violence did not spare the young or the old. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "'It's like a repeated cycle': Louisville's murder toll climbed 14% in 2019," 3 Jan. 2020 As a gay Black man who appreciates the presidency of Barack Obama but also understands what little that did in the way of eliminating a racial inequity, spare me, Pete. Michael Arceneaux, Essence, "The Theme of Last Night’s Democratic Debate Was ‘Come For The Queen’," 16 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His previous 14 novels, all shorter than 300 pages, possessed a spare, compressed intensity of language and design. William Deresiewicz, The Atlantic, "The Special Child," 17 May 2020 The design—a balance between a mid-century aesthetic and more contemporary lines and finishes—emphasizes large, spare, glassy interior spaces. James Tarmy,, "Two Tech Founders Are Listing Their $13 Million Mountaintop Mansion," 21 Feb. 2020 This is aria-grade stuff, a truth emphasized in Clifton Chadick’s spare, dreamscape set, backed by an illustration of a stage curtain. Celia Wren, Washington Post, "GALA’s ‘Exquisita Agonia’ pours its heart out," 13 Feb. 2020 The family room’s midcentury Barzilay Multispan Vertical Storage System wall unit is a spare, but effective way to display curated collectibles. oregonlive, "Restored Scandinavian midcentury modern in Southwest Portland showcases soothing spaces," 22 Mar. 2020 But everyone needs a spare just in case the worst happens. The Editors, Field & Stream, "Three Great Gifts for Fly Fishermen," 3 Apr. 2020 Gary Lark Lifelong Oregonian Gary Lark’s spare, forceful verses unfurl from roots sunk deep in the towns of western Oregon in the 1950s and ‘60s. oregonlive, "Celebrate World Poetry Day with these 6 Oregon-rooted collections," 19 Mar. 2020 No spares were readily available, so a mechanic in Darjeeling fashioned one out of the leather from an old Gurkha soldier’s hat. New York Times, "London to Singapore in a Tiny Truck, and Other Road Trip Adventures," 20 Feb. 2020 Closest in style and temperament to Raising Arizona, this Gramercy release should roll boxoffice strikes with select-siters and score some winning spares with mainstream viewers. Duane Bygre, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Big Lebowski': THR's 1998 Review," 6 Mar. 2020

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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Time Traveler for spare

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for spare

Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Spare.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for spare


How to pronounce spare (audio)

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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