\ ˈspärs \
sparser; sparsest

Definition of sparse

: of few and scattered elements especially : not thickly grown or settled

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Other Words from sparse

sparsely adverb
sparseness noun
sparsity \ ˈspär-​sə-​tē , -​stē \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for sparse

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 sparse in a Sentence

open land is sparse around here

Recent Examples on the Web

Maybe not, as shifting show times—like Celine from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening—left the last four days of the week looking a bit sparse. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Rihanna, Celine, and That Versace Deal—The 10 Biggest Stories of the Spring 2019 Season," 5 Oct. 2018 Now except that the series offerings sometimes feel a bit sparse next to Netflix. Brooks Barnes, New York Times, "In Hollywood, Cutting the Cord and Other Disruptions," 14 Mar. 2018 While Gillum was drawing large crowds of energetic supporters, DeSantis’ crowds were sparse and lacked similar enthusiasm. Brendan Farrington, The Seattle Times, "DeSantis campaign refocusing as Florida voting starts," 8 Oct. 2018 Logistics and details were sparse on how this would be implemented, but the tests would have to be made available to hundreds of people already deported to El Salvador, Honduras and other countries of origin. Catherine Ho,, "Effort to use DNA tests to reunite migrant families is paused," 26 June 2018 The Trump administration has thus far been sparse on details of how denuclearization might be accomplished, let alone verified. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "Pompeo berates reporter for question about verifying North Korea denuclearization," 13 June 2018 What began as a relatively sparse, but still enthusiastic Mystics crowd slowly grew into a Capitals pregame extravaganza. Amanda Christovich And Jack White, USA TODAY, "Capitals watch party provides electric atmosphere for WNBA's Mystics," 7 June 2018 Inside, the Lodgepole is sparse on details, with a small mesh storage pouch on either side. Ariella Gintzler, Outside Online, "Testing’s New Camping Gear," 1 June 2018 Those the Tribune spoke with each had their own theory, but the consensus was that his sparse, chilly and pop-hook laden music is at its core a more palatable version of current trends in hip-hop. Dan Hyman,, "Explaining Post Malone: Why is the rapper so popular?," 31 May 2018

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

1753, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sparse

Latin sparsus spread out, from past participle of spargere to scatter — more at spark

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Statistics for sparse

Last Updated

9 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for sparse

The first known use of sparse was in 1753

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More Definitions for sparse



English Language Learners Definition of sparse

: present only in small amounts : less than necessary or normal; especially : thinly covering an area : not thick or full


\ ˈspärs \
sparser; sparsest

Kids Definition of sparse

: not thickly grown or settled a sparse beard

Other Words from sparse

sparsely adverb a sparsely populated village

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More from Merriam-Webster on sparse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sparse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sparse

Spanish Central: Translation of sparse

Nglish: Translation of sparse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sparse for Arabic Speakers

Comments on sparse

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


tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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