Origin of spare

before 900; (v.) Middle English sparen, Old English sparian; cognate with Dutch, German sparen, Old Norse spara; (noun and adj.) Middle English; compare Old English spær sparing, frugal (cognate with Old High German spar, Old Norse sparr
Related formsspare·a·ble, adjectivespare·ly, adverbspare·ness, nounspar·er, nounun·spared, adjective

Synonyms for spare

6. reserve. 14, 15. extra. 17. See thin.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spare

Contemporary Examples of spare

Historical Examples of spare

  • Spare me not, therefore, my dear friend, whenever you think me in the least faulty.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • We employed our spare time in gymnastics, in turning, and in rambles.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • For her part, she was busy and could not spare time to gossip.

  • Touching the moneys, there is enough and to spare until we reach Montaubon.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Alleyne, you will come with me, and lead a spare horse by the bridle.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

British Dictionary definitions for spare



(tr) to refrain from killing, punishing, harming, or injuring
(tr) to release or relieve, as from pain, suffering, etc
(tr) to refrain from usingspare the rod, spoil the child
(tr) to be able to afford or giveI can't spare the time
(usually passive) (esp of Providence) to allow to surviveI'll see you again next year if we are spared
(intr) rare to act or live frugally
(intr) rare to show mercy
not spare oneself to exert oneself to the full
to spare more than is requiredtwo minutes to spare


(often immediately postpositive) in excess of what is needed; additionalare there any seats spare?
able to be used when neededa spare part
(of a person) thin and lean
scanty or meagre
(postpositive) British slang upset, angry, or distracted (esp in the phrase go spare)


a duplicate kept as a replacement in case of damage or loss
a spare tyre
tenpin bowling
  1. the act of knocking down all the pins with the two bowls of a single frame
  2. the score thus madeCompare strike (def. 40)
Derived Formssparely, adverbspareness, nounsparer, noun

Word Origin for spare

Old English sparian to refrain from injuring; related to Old Norse spara, Old High German sparōn
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 spare

Old English sparian "to refrain from harming, to allow to go free," from the source of Old English spær "sparing, frugal," from Proto-Germanic *sparaz (cf. Old Frisian sparia, Old Norse spara, Old High German sparon "to spare"). Meaning "to dispense from one's own stock" is recorded from early 13c. Related: Spared; sparing.


"kept in reserve, not used," late 14c., from spare (v.). Old English had spær "spare, frugal." In reference to time, from mid-15c.; sense of "flimsy, thin" is recorded from 1540s. Spare part is attested from 1888.


"extra thing or part," 1640s, from spare (v.). Middle English noun sense was "mercy, leniency" (early 14c.). Bowling sense of "a knocking down of all pins in two bowls" is attested from 1849, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with spare


In addition to the idioms beginning with spare

  • spare the rod and spoil the child
  • spare tire

also see:

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