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adj. scarc·er, scarc·est
1. Insufficient to meet a demand or requirement; short in supply: Fresh vegetables were scarce during the drought.
2. Hard to find; absent or rare: Steel pennies are scarce now except in coin shops.
Barely or hardly; scarcely.
make (oneself) scarce Informal
1. To stay away; be absent or elusive.
2. To depart, especially quickly or furtively; abscond.

[Middle English scars, from Old French scars, from Vulgar Latin *excarpsus, narrow, cramped, from past participle of *excarpere, to pluck out, alteration of Latin excerpere, to pick out; see excerpt.]

scarce′ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. rarely encountered
2. insufficient to meet the demand
3. make oneself scarce informal to go away, esp suddenly
archaic or literary scarcely
[C13: from Old Norman French scars, from Vulgar Latin excarpsus (unattested) plucked out, from Latin excerpere to select; see excerpt]
ˈscarceness n
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014



adj. scarc•er, scarc•est,
adv. adj.
1. insufficient to satisfy the need or demand.
2. rarely encountered.
3. scarcely.
make oneself scarce,
a. to leave, esp. quickly.
b. to stay away.
[1250–1300; Middle English scars < Old North French (e)scars < Vulgar Latin *excarpsus plucked out, for Latin excerptus; see excerpt]
scarce′ness, n.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.



Both scarce and scarcely are fairly formal words. They have completely different meanings.

1. 'scarce'

Scarce is an adjective. If something is scarce, very little of it is available.

Good quality land is scarce.
The desert is a place where water is scarce.
2. 'rare'

Don't use 'scarce' to say that something is not common, and is therefore interesting. Use rare.

This flower is so rare that few botanists have ever seen it.
Deepak's hobby is collecting rare books.
3. 'scarcely'

Scarcely is an adverb that means the same as 'hardly'. If something is scarcely true, it is almost not true. If something scarcely exists, it almost does not exist.

The smell was so bad I could scarcely bear it.
The woman was scarcely able to walk.

Be Careful!
Don't use 'not' with scarcely. Don't say, for example, 'I do not scarcely have enough money to live'. Say 'I scarcely have enough money to live'.

If you use an auxiliary verb or modal with scarcely, put the auxiliary verb or modal first. Say, for example, 'I could scarcely stand'. Don't say 'I scarcely could stand'.

I can scarcely remember what we ate.
He could scarcely be blamed for his reaction.

Scarcely is sometimes used to emphasize that one thing happened immediately after another.

We had scarcely arrived when it was time to leave again.

Be Careful!
Use when, not 'than', in sentences like these. Don't say, for example, 'We had scarcely arrived than it was time to leave again'.

In literary writing, scarcely is sometimes put at the beginning of a sentence, followed by had or the verb be and the subject.

Scarcely had she put down the receiver when the phone rang again.
Scarcely were the words spoken when he began to regret them.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adj.1.scarce - deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand; "fresh vegetables were scarce during the drought"
meager, meagerly, meagre, scrimpy, stingy - deficient in amount or quality or extent; "meager resources"; "meager fare"
abundant - present in great quantity; "an abundant supply of water"
Adv.1.scarce - only a very short time beforescarce - only a very short time before; "they could barely hear the speaker"; "we hardly knew them"; "just missed being hit"; "had scarcely rung the bell when the door flew open"; "would have scarce arrived before she would have found some excuse to leave"- W.B.Yeats
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


2. rare, few, unusual, uncommon, few and far between, infrequent, thin on the ground, seldom met with I'm unemployed, so luxuries are scarce.
rare common, numerous, frequent, commonplace
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


1. Not enough to meet a demand or requirement:
2. Rarely occurring or appearing:
By a very little; almost not:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
قَلِيلنادِر، غَيْر مُتَوَفِّر
sjaldgæfur; af skornum skammti
khan hiếm


A. ADJ (scarcer (compar) (scarcest (superl))) [reserves, resources] → escaso
to be scarce [doctors, food, resources] → escasear; [money] → escasear, faltar
jobs were very scarce in those daysen aquella época escaseaban los puestos de trabajo
paintings of this quality are scarceno abundan los cuadros de esta calidad
to grow or become scarcevolverse escaso, escasear
to make o.s. scarcelargarse, esfumarse
B. ADV (o.f.) = scarcely
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈskɛərs] adj
(= uncommon) → rare, peu abondant(e)
Jobs are scarce these days
BUT Il y a peu de travail ces temps-ci.
scarce resources → des ressources limitées
to make o.s. scarce → s'éclipser
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


adj (+er) (= in short supply)knapp; (= rare)selten; jobsrar; to make oneself scarce (inf)verschwinden (inf), → abhauen (inf)
adv (old) = scarcely
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[skɛəs] adj (-r (comp) (-st (superl))) (money, food, resources) → scarso/a; (copy, edition) → raro/a
to be scarce → scarseggiare
to grow or become scarce → diventare raro/a
to make o.s. scarce (fig) (fam) → squagliarsela
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(skeəs) adjective
not many or enough in number. Paintings by this artist are very scarce; Food is scarce because of the drought.
ˈscarcely adverb
1. only just; not quite. Speak louder please – I can scarcely hear you; scarcely enough money to live on.
2. used to suggest that something is unreasonable. You can scarcely expect me to work when I'm ill.
ˈscarcity noun
(a) lack or shortage. a scarcity of work/jobs; times of scarcity.
make oneself scarce
to run away or stay away, especially in order to avoid trouble. As soon as the police arrived, he made himself scarce.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


قَلِيل nedostatkový utilstrækkelig knapp λιγοστός exiguo riittämätön rare rijedak scarso 不足して 모자라는 schaars knapp rzadki escasso редкий sällsynt ไม่ค่อยพบ kıt khan hiếm 稀少的
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009
References in classic literature ?
"But how came this?" asked the young clerk, who could scarce keep from laughter at the sight of the hot little man so swathed in the great white cloak.
I was scarce a quarter of a mile to seaward, and it was my first thought to paddle in and land.
The wind scarce flutters through the leaves, The young moon hath already gone, And kind and cool the dews descend: The lute-strings wake for night alone.
Scarce had his feet touched the rough stone flagging of this new chamber than his sword flashed out ready for instant use.
She could scarce wait for the coming of the day that she might look again upon the bright face of her little, black-eyed Jack.
Guest had often been on business to the doctor's; he knew Poole; he could scarce have failed to hear of Mr.
But though these passions ordinarily succeed each other, and scarce twenty-four hours ever passed in which the pedagogue was not, in some degree, the object of both; yet, on extraordinary occasions, when the passion of anger had raged very high, the remission was usually longer: and so was the case at present; for she continued longer in a state of affability, after this fit of jealousy was ended, than her husband had ever known before: and, had it not been for some little exercises, which all the followers of Xantippe are obliged to perform daily, Mr Partridge would have enjoyed a perfect serenity of several months.
In their anxiety to struggle forward, they had but little time to hunt, and scarce any game in their path.
And what the people but a herd confused, A miscellaneous rabble, who extol Things vulgar, and, well weighed, scarce worth the praise?
In the morning I saw a red deer, a buck with a fine spread of antlers, standing in the rain on the top of the island; but he had scarce seen me rise from under my rock, before he trotted off upon the other side.
Our way now lay through a region scarce passable, and full of serpents, which were continually creeping between our legs; we might have avoided them in the day, but being obliged, that we might avoid the excessive heats, to take long marches in the night, we were every moment treading upon them.
As the leopard leaped for the great ape Meriem gasped in surprise and horror--not for the impending fate of the anthropoid, but at the act of the youth who but for an instant before had angrily struck his strange companion; for scarce had the carnivore burst into view than with drawn knife the youth had leaped far out above him, so that as Sheeta was almost in the act of sinking fangs and talons in Akut's broad back The Killer landed full upon the leopard's shoulders.