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From Middle English scarce, skarce, scarse, scars, from Old Northern French scars, escars ("sparing, niggard, parsimonious, miserly, poor"; > French échars, Medieval Latin scarsus(diminished, reduced)), of uncertain origin. One theory is that it derives originally from a Late Latin *scarpsus, *excarpsus, a participle form of *excarpere(take out), from Latin ex- + carpere; yet the sense evolution is difficult to trace. Compare also Middle Dutch schaers(sparing, niggard), Middle Dutch schaers(a pair of shears, plowshare), scheeren(to shear).



scarce ‎(comparative scarcer, superlative scarcest)

  1. Uncommon, rare; difficult to find; insufficient to meet a demand.
    • John Locke
      You tell him silver is scarcer now in England, and therefore risen one fifth in value.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 3, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      My hopes wa'n't disappointed. I never saw clams thicker than they was along them inshore flats. I filled my dreener in no time, and then it come to me that 'twouldn't be a bad idee to get a lot more, take 'em with me to Wellmouth, and peddle 'em out. Clams was fairly scarce over that side of the bay and ought to fetch a fair price.
  2. Scantily supplied (with); deficient (in); used with of.



scarce ‎(not comparable)

  1. (now literary, archaic) Scarcely, only just.
    • Milton
      With a scarce well-lighted flame.
    • 1854, Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven:
      And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure that I heard you [...].
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet Chapter 4:
      Yet had I scarce set foot in the passage when I stopped, remembering how once already this same evening I had played the coward, and run home scared with my own fears.
    • 1931, William Faulkner, Sanctuary, Vintage 1993, p. 122:
      Upon the barred and slitted wall the splotched shadow of the heaven tree shuddered and pulsed monstrously in scarce any wind.
    • 1969, John Cleese, Monty Python's Flying Circus:
      Well, it's scarce the replacement then, is it?

See also[edit]