Definition of scarce in US English:



  • 1(especially of food, money, or some other resource) insufficient for the demand.

    ‘as raw materials became scarce, synthetics were developed’
    • ‘This was compounded by a growing competition for scarce food resources.’
    • ‘This will be too demanding on the scarce land resource to make the population feel comfortable.’
    • ‘They saw their families and communities through difficult times, when money was scarce and the demands of rural life were very demanding.’
    • ‘Food was scarce and money flooded off the presses. 476 million rubles were printed in April, one billion in July.’
    • ‘In critical care, networks have been used to increase efficiency and responsiveness by combining scarce resources to iron out the effect of variations in demand.’
    • ‘Public money is involved, by definition a scarce resource that has many competing claims to its use.’
    • ‘This can often mean fighting for scarce resources, particularly when the demands on these resources come from the normal operational demands of the business.’
    • ‘I must eat until sated: Early humans lived in an environment in which food resources were scarce.’
    • ‘They are used to increase public health and conserve scarce resources.’
    • ‘I start from the basic supposition that economics is the study of allocating scarce resources and not simply the study of money.’
    • ‘This may be so fundamental to the business that diverting scarce resources and money into longer-term plans would be wrong.’
    • ‘We look at cost structure, how you're spending money, how you prioritize scarce resources.’
    • ‘Even Sarah, who was seven, understood that money was tight and food was scarce.’
    • ‘Difficult choices must be made in the allocation of scarce resources between current and capital expenditure.’
    • ‘Ordinary people, after all, just want to get along with their lives, with the routine and mundane task of eking out a living out of scarce resources.’
    • ‘Coastal land resources are scarce because of high demand and low supply.’
    • ‘Black market trading in scarce food and petrol puts inflation closer to 700%.’
    • ‘Even impoverished Southerners snubbed peanuts until food was scarce.’
    • ‘Attractive though the technique appears, we must demand more from such an expensive and still scarce resource.’
    • ‘First, it would not require each country to expend scarce resources to build its own defenses against every air and missile threat.’
    in short supply, short, scant, scanty, meagre, sparse, hard to find, hard to come by, not enough, too little, insufficient, deficient, inadequate, lacking, wanting
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    1. 1.1 Occurring in small numbers or quantities; rare.
      ‘the freshwater shrimp becomes scarce in soft water’
      • ‘Other flowers present that are now scarce in Suffolk include spiny restharrow and the yellow flowered sulphur clover.’
      • ‘Volunteers are scarce if not downright uncooperative.’
      • ‘Uncluttered surface areas are scarce real estate anywhere in my house, especially the kitchen.’
      • ‘Tatum rabbet planes are scarce to rare and this was a nice example.’
      • ‘The report says the common skate is so scarce recent surveys to assess their status failed to find a single one.’
      • ‘Places for under fives are getting scarce in the area.’
      • ‘However, the two of them have always agreed that Luke has little to offer the world and therefore choose to ignore his scarce and rarely expressed opinions.’
      • ‘Places for elderly residents in Bolton are becoming scarce because of the closures over the past few years.’
      • ‘It's thrilling; moments like this are scarce in smug, self-satisfied hip-hop.’
      • ‘In some ways it can be considered as a miniature flora of an area, highlighting the locally rare and scarce species.’
      • ‘These actions have been carried out openly, but opposition within Canada has been scarce or nonexistent.’
      • ‘They were the secret of that period of time. They are still fairly rare, fairly scarce.’
      • ‘It is this lack that has made archeological finds scarce and precious, finds like the one Dan made.’
      rare, few and far between, thin on the ground, seldom found, seldom seen
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  • Scarcely.

    ‘a babe scarce two years old’
    • ‘I went to the bucket but there was scarce any left.’
    • ‘At that moment the beast-man charged the Kshatriya; Viro scarce had time to roll.’
    • ‘In recent years, the beleaguered couple have been scarce on the social scene.’


  • make oneself scarce

    • informal Leave a place, especially so as to avoid a difficult situation.

      • ‘The fifth character is divorced, single mother Sue, invited by Beverley because her 15-year-old daughter Abigail is having her own bash and mum needs to make herself scarce.’
      • ‘Having supervisors that make themselves scarce or won't back me up when they are around are just things I have to live with.’
      • ‘Bears are solitary creatures, and with the encroaching populations of humans descending upon their habitat, they will most likely make themselves scarce once they hear all those weird noises.’
      • ‘And the 25-year-old miner who found it is, if not exactly in hiding, certainly making himself scarce.’
      • ‘There's no need to worry about the invasion of privacy, as the crewmembers are usually very experienced in knowing when to make themselves scarce or when you may need an explanation of some of the surrounding beauty and sites.’
      • ‘Truth be told, continental Europeans have been making themselves scarce during times of crisis for more than two generations.’
      • ‘Shelley and Thomas however, had made themselves scarce and gone to clear up the kitchen.’
      • ‘‘It was an empty building and a small piece of glass,’ said PC Lewis, who expected the majority of people in the same situation would have made themselves scarce.’
      • ‘I think you'd better make yourself scarce for the day.’
      • ‘The boy had made himself scarce in the past week, obviously avoiding the messengers for the day.’
      go away, depart, leave, take off, get out, get out of my sight
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Middle English (in the sense ‘restricted in quantity or size’, also ‘parsimonious’): from a shortening of Anglo-Norman escars, from a Romance word meaning ‘plucked out, selected’.