verb (used with object), spared, spar·ing.
  1. to refrain from harming or destroying; leave uninjured; forbear to punish, hurt, or destroy: to spare one's enemy.
  2. to deal gently or leniently with; show consideration for: His harsh criticism spared no one.
  3. to save from strain, discomfort, embarrassment, or the like, or from a particular cause of it: to spare him the bother; to spare her needless embarrassment.
  4. to refrain from, forbear, omit, or withhold, as action or speech: Spare us the gory details.
  5. to refrain from employing, as some instrument or recourse: to spare the rod.
  6. to set aside for a particular purpose: to spare land for a garden.
  7. to give or lend, as from a supply, especially without inconvenience or loss: Can you spare a cup of sugar? Can you spare me a dollar till payday?
  8. to dispense with or do without: We can't spare a single worker during the rush hour.
  9. to use economically or frugally; refrain from using up or wasting: A walnut sundae, and don't spare the whipped cream!
  10. to have remaining as excess or surplus: We can make the curtains and have a yard to spare.
verb (used without object), spared, spar·ing.
  1. to use economy; be frugal.
  2. to refrain from inflicting injury or punishment; exercise lenience or mercy.
  3. Obsolete. to refrain from action; forbear.
adjective, spar·er, spar·est.
  1. kept in reserve, as for possible use: a spare part.
  2. being in excess of present need; free for other use: spare time.
  3. frugally restricted or meager, as a manner of living or a diet: a spare regime.
  4. lean or thin, as a person.
  5. scanty or scant, as in amount or fullness.
  6. economical, moderate, or temperate, as persons; sparing.
  1. a spare thing, part, etc., as an extra tire for emergency use.
  2. Ceramics. an area at the top of a plaster mold for holding excess slip.
  3. Bowling.
    1. the knocking down of all the pins with two bowls.
    2. a score so made.Compare strike(def 69).

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

Examples from the Web for spares

Contemporary Examples of spares

Historical Examples of spares

  • How brutal that which spares not the monuments of authentic history!

    The Biglow Papers

    James Russell Lowell

  • He prefers to establish his rule by treaty and spares an enemy who sues for peace.

    The Buddha

    Paul Carus

  • That's your gratitude for the way he feeds you and spares you!

  • He spares Rome by the sacrifice of those who have given him a shelter and a welcome.

    William Shakespeare

    John Masefield

  • He who spares the rod spoils the child, is the practical rule of their conduct.

    The Toilers of the Field

    Richard Jefferies

British Dictionary definitions for spares


  1. (tr) to refrain from killing, punishing, harming, or injuring
  2. (tr) to release or relieve, as from pain, suffering, etc
  3. (tr) to refrain from usingspare the rod, spoil the child
  4. (tr) to be able to afford or giveI can't spare the time
  5. (usually passive) (esp of Providence) to allow to surviveI'll see you again next year if we are spared
  6. (intr) rare to act or live frugally
  7. (intr) rare to show mercy
  8. not spare oneself to exert oneself to the full
  9. to spare more than is requiredtwo minutes to spare
  1. (often immediately postpositive) in excess of what is needed; additionalare there any seats spare?
  2. able to be used when neededa spare part
  3. (of a person) thin and lean
  4. scanty or meagre
  5. (postpositive) British slang upset, angry, or distracted (esp in the phrase go spare)
  1. a duplicate kept as a replacement in case of damage or loss
  2. a spare tyre
  3. 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 spares



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 spares


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.