Definition of scarce in English:



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

    ‘as raw materials became scarce, synthetics were developed’
    • ‘I start from the basic supposition that economics is the study of allocating scarce resources and not simply the study of money.’
    • ‘Attractive though the technique appears, we must demand more from such an expensive and still scarce resource.’
    • ‘This may be so fundamental to the business that diverting scarce resources and money into longer-term plans would be wrong.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Public money is involved, by definition a scarce resource that has many competing claims to its use.’
    • ‘First, it would not require each country to expend scarce resources to build its own defenses against every air and missile threat.’
    • ‘This was compounded by a growing competition for scarce food resources.’
    • ‘They are used to increase public health and conserve scarce resources.’
    • ‘Food was scarce and money flooded off the presses. 476 million rubles were printed in April, one billion in July.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They saw their families and communities through difficult times, when money was scarce and the demands of rural life were very demanding.’
    • ‘Coastal land resources are scarce because of high demand and low supply.’
    • ‘This will be too demanding on the scarce land resource to make the population feel comfortable.’
    • ‘Even impoverished Southerners snubbed peanuts until food was scarce.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Black market trading in scarce food and petrol puts inflation closer to 700%.’
    • ‘We look at cost structure, how you're spending money, how you prioritize scarce resources.’
    in short supply, short, scant, scanty, meagre, sparse, hard to find, hard to come by, not enough, too little, insufficient, deficient, inadequate, lacking, wanting
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Occurring in small numbers or quantities; rare.
      ‘the freshwater shrimp becomes scarce in soft water’
      • ‘These actions have been carried out openly, but opposition within Canada has been scarce or nonexistent.’
      • ‘Places for under fives are getting scarce in the area.’
      • ‘Volunteers are scarce if not downright uncooperative.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The report says the common skate is so scarce recent surveys to assess their status failed to find a single one.’
      • ‘They were the secret of that period of time. They are still fairly rare, fairly scarce.’
      • ‘Uncluttered surface areas are scarce real estate anywhere in my house, especially the kitchen.’
      • ‘Other flowers present that are now scarce in Suffolk include spiny restharrow and the yellow flowered sulphur clover.’
      • ‘It is this lack that has made archeological finds scarce and precious, finds like the one Dan made.’
      • ‘Tatum rabbet planes are scarce to rare and this was a nice example.’
      • ‘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.’
      rare, few and far between, thin on the ground, seldom found, seldom seen
      View synonyms


  • Scarcely.

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


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.