\ ˈskers How to pronounce scarce (audio) \
scarcer; scarcest

Essential Meaning of scarce

: very small in amount or number : not plentiful Food was getting scarce during the drought. scarce resources

Full Definition of scarce

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand : not plentiful or abundant
2 : intentionally absent made himself scarce at inspection time



Definition of scarce (Entry 2 of 2)

: scarcely, hardly scarce was independence half a century old, when a … split occurred— John McPhee

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Other Words from scarce


scarceness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for scarce


infrequent, uncommon, scarce, rare, sporadic mean not common or abundant. infrequent implies occurrence at wide intervals in space or time. infrequent family visits uncommon suggests a frequency below normal expectation. smallpox is now uncommon in many countries scarce implies falling short of a standard or required abundance. jobs were scarce during the Depression rare suggests extreme scarcity or infrequency and often implies consequent high value. rare first editions sporadic implies occurrence in scattered instances or isolated outbursts. sporadic cases of influenza

Examples of scarce in a Sentence

Adjective Food was getting scarce during the drought. food was a bit scarce last winter Adverb I could scarce believe what I was hearing.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The few medicines that have shown some benefit — such as monoclonal antibodies — are costly, complex to administer, and, in poor nations, scarce or absent., 18 Oct. 2021 Retailers are working to hire large numbers of staff ahead of the holidays at a time when workers are scarce in many industries. Matt Grossman, WSJ, 18 Oct. 2021 The few medicines that have shown some benefit -- such as monoclonal antibodies -- are costly, complex to administer and, in poor nations, scarce or absent. The New York Times, Arkansas Online, 18 Oct. 2021 It has been demonstrated to have lower carbon outputs than some other terrestrial animal protein sources with less reliance on scarce land and water resources. Neil Russell, Fortune, 17 Oct. 2021 As the world reaches the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, more items are becoming scarce because of a supply chain shortage across the globe. Editors, USA TODAY, 17 Oct. 2021 The pandemic has walloped women workers, who have taken the brunt of childcare duties as schools struggle to reopen and daycare spots can be scarce and expensive. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 13 Oct. 2021 The challenge, however, will be in raising the next generation of data scientists to fill the scarce job pool and meet the changing market needs. Carlos Melendez, Forbes, 12 Oct. 2021 Access to public green space is distributed unequally—lower-income neighborhoods have scarce vegetation and many fewer parklands. Jordan Salama, Scientific American, 12 Oct. 2021

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for scarce


Middle English scars, from Anglo-French eschars, escars narrow, stingy, deficient, from Vulgar Latin *excarpsus, literally, plucked out, past participle of Latin excerpere to pluck out — more at excerpt

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Time Traveler for scarce

Time Traveler

The first known use of scarce was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Scarce.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for scarce


\ ˈskers How to pronounce scarce (audio) \
scarcer; scarcest

Kids Definition of scarce

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not plentiful Food was scarce during the war.



Kids Definition of scarce (Entry 2 of 2)

: hardly, scarcely … I could scarce conceal a shudder when he laid his hand upon my arm.— Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

More from Merriam-Webster on scarce

Nglish: Translation of scarce for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scarce for Arabic Speakers


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