\ ˈspärs How to pronounce sparse (audio) \
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 How to pronounce sparsity (audio) , -​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 Lessened now is the energy — though cars still speed by, foot traffic is sparse. Emma Nelson, Star Tribune, "As winter approaches, Payne Avenue business owners are determined to hold on," 17 Oct. 2020 Nikola has long claimed to have advanced technology ranging from batteries to hydrogen fuel cells, but details have been sparse. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Nikola stock falls 14 percent after CEO downplays Badger truck plans," 16 Oct. 2020 Whereas visitors to the Great Wall were still sparse in early May, bookings surged in the following weeks. Washington Post, "For the ‘New Wonders of the World,’ 2020 was a quiet year," 16 Oct. 2020 Details about Trump’s tax proposals for a second term have been sparse. Jay Heflin, Washington Examiner, "Trump dodges five times when asked to detail promised middle class tax cuts," 15 Oct. 2020 Though touted by President Trump as a possible cure, the data supporting the medication was always sparse, and emergency authorization for it was revoked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June. Gloria Dickie, Scientific American, "Physician-Politicians Tout Medical Credentials in Key U.S. Congressional Races," 15 Oct. 2020 Now that America is the country in flames, though, animal coverage has been sparse. Ben Goldfarb, The Atlantic, "The West’s Animals Can’t Survive This," 30 Sep. 2020 While her record on gay rights is sparse, her appointment to Florida’s high court garnered praise from John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, a conservative group that opposes LGBTQ rights. NBC News, "Trump's Supreme Court front-runners 'antithetical' to Ginsburg's legacy, critics say," 22 Sep. 2020 Prior to the logbook’s acquisition, the database’s record of the Mary’s 1795–76 journey were sparse, consisting mainly of the dates the ship left each port and the names of its owner and captain. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "A Newly Digitized Logbook Documents Life and Death on a Slave Trading Ship," 22 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for sparse

Time Traveler

The first known use of sparse was in 1753

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Statistics for sparse

Last Updated

27 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sparse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for sparse


How to pronounce sparse (audio)

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 How to pronounce sparse (audio) \
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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