• synonyms


adjective, scarc·er, scarc·est.
  1. insufficient to satisfy the need or demand; not abundant: Meat and butter were scarce during the war.
  2. seldom met with; rare: a scarce book.
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  1. scarcely.
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  1. make oneself scarce, Informal.
    1. to depart, especially suddenly.
    2. to stay away; avoid.
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Origin of scarce

1250–1300; Middle English scars < Old North French (e)scars < Vulgar Latin *excarpsus plucked out, for Latin excerptus; see excerpt
Related formsscarce·ness, nounun·scarce, adjectiveun·scarce·ly, adverbun·scarce·ness, noun
Can be confusedextinct rare scarce

Synonyms for scarce

Antonyms for scarce

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for scarcest

limited, rare, scanty, deficient, sparse, scant, sporadic, failing, few, occasional, seldom, short, shy, uncommon, unusual, wanting, truncated

Examples from the Web for scarcest

Historical Examples of scarcest

  • It is far and away the scarcest and most precious substance in the world.

    The Skylark of Space

    Edward Elmer Smith and Lee Hawkins Garby

  • The scarcest monkey in Borneo is the proboscis, or long-nosed.

  • Some of the scarcest books printed by Caxton were among the latter.

    Bibliomania; or Book-Madness

    Thomas Frognall Dibdin

  • Ice is about the scarcest thing in England, and cannot be had at the majority of bars.

    Nasby in Exile

    David R. Locke

  • This volume is said to be one of the scarcest books in the English language.

British Dictionary definitions for scarcest


  1. rarely encountered
  2. insufficient to meet the demand
  3. make oneself scarce informal to go away, esp suddenly
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  1. archaic, or literary scarcely
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Derived Formsscarceness, noun

Word Origin for scarce

C13: from Old Norman French scars, from Vulgar Latin excarpsus (unattested) plucked out, from Latin excerpere to select; see excerpt
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for scarcest



c.1300, "restricted in quantity," from Old North French scars "scanty, scarce" (Old French eschars, Modern French échars) from Vulgar Latin *scarsus, from *escarpsus, from *excarpere "pluck out," from classical Latin excerpere "pluck out" (see excerpt). As an adverb early 14c. from the adjective. Phrase to make oneself scarce "go away" first attested 1771, noted as a current "cant phrase." Related: Scarcely.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with scarcest


In addition to the idiom beginning with scarce

  • scarce as hen's teeth
  • scarcely ever

also see:

  • make oneself scarce
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.