sparser; sparsest
: of few and scattered elements
especially : not thickly grown or settled
sparsely adverb
sparseness noun
sparsity noun

Keep scrolling for more

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

Example Sentences

open land is sparse around here
Recent Examples on the Web His playing time was sparse after his first-quarter interception, which came on an underthrown ball into coverage in the first quarter. Tom Green |, al, 16 Sep. 2022 Because vaccine supply has been sparse during the current monkeypox outbreak, doses have generally been allocated to those at the greatest risk of infection, which the WHO and CDC say has been primarily gay and bisexual men. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Sep. 2022 Bailey and his wife, Cynthia, have filed, the information is sparse and the documents do not provide a full picture of the downstate farmer and lawmaker’s financial situation. Dan Petrella, Chicago Tribune, 15 Sep. 2022 Catching on the pier was sparse, but several boats returned with impressive kings. Paul A. Smith, Journal Sentinel, 11 Sep. 2022 The company started sharing advertising sales with popular YouTubers in 2007, but the funds were sparse. Mark Bergen, The Atlantic, 5 Sep. 2022 The crowd was sparse -- the game began amid a downpour and a global pandemic -- but when Blackman's pass landed in the hands of Panthers safety Damar Hamlin, the boos were as clear as day. Mitchell Gladstone, Arkansas Online, 2 Sep. 2022 Details on the company’s potential membership program are sparse — right now, the initiative is at the drawing-board stage. Todd Spangler, Variety, 1 Sep. 2022 In real life, mental health information and care are sparse. Tatum Hunter, Washington Post, 29 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1753, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sparse was in 1753

Dictionary Entries Near sparse

Cite this Entry

“Sparse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2022.

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

Kids Definition

sparser; sparsest
: not thickly grown or settled
a sparse beard
sparsely adverb a sparsely populated village

More from Merriam-Webster on sparse

Last Updated: 22 Sep 2022

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.