Definition of reserve in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /rəˈzərv/


[with object]
1Refrain from using or disposing of (something); retain for future use: roll out half the dough and reserve the other half
More example sentences
  • Then drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquor.
  • Strain, reserving the milk but discarding the garlic and thyme, and mash, adding the cream and milk until fluffy - you may not need all the milk.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a small amount of the cooking water.
put to one side, put aside, set aside, keep, keep back, save, hold, put on hold, keep in reserve, earmark
1.1Arrange for (a room, seat, ticket, etc.) to be kept for the use of a particular person and not given to anyone else: a place was reserved for her in the front row
More example sentences
  • Your table is always reserved in the dining room.
  • The closing date for season ticket holders to reserve their seats and get discounted tickets for the friendly match is tomorrow.
  • All seats with tables were reserved - although they seemed empty most of the night.
book, make a reservation for, order, arrange for, secure, preorder
formal bespeak
dated engage
1.2Retain or hold (an entitlement to something), especially by formal or legal stipulation: [with object and infinitive]: the editor reserves the right to edit letters
More example sentences
  • By that, do you mean they're reserving the right or looking at taking legal action?
  • This is my web site, running on a server I own, using bandwidth I pay for, located in a nation which reserves the right of free speech for its citizens.
  • The raffle operator reserves his rights to use frequent flyer miles to pay for the round trip plane tickets.
retain, maintain, keep, hold
1.3Refrain from delivering (a judgment or decision) immediately or without due consideration or evidence: I’ll reserve my views on his ability until he’s played again
More example sentences
  • He reserved his decision and delivered oral reasons for judgment on June 13.
  • The Judge reserved his final decision and has informed the newspaper that decision will be disclosed today.
  • He reserved his decision on withdrawing the warrants until close of business next Wednesday.
defer, postpone, put off, delay, withhold
1.4 (reserve something for) Use or engage in something only in or at (a particular circumstance or time): Japanese food has been presented as expensive and reserved for special occasions
More example sentences
  • In Italy, celebrating with a meal isn't reserved for special occasions - it's a way of life.
  • I reserve those future modification strategies for my birthday.
  • Antibiotics are generally reserved for use in episodes of acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
1.5(In church use) retain (a portion of the consecrated elements) after mass for communion of the sick or as a focus for devotion.
Example sentences
  • Is not the cost of keeping our churches open, offering the liturgy, and reserving the Eucharist a price the Church can afford, no matter the monetary price?
  • Jesus is present in a very real and powerful way in every church that reserves the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.
  • If we reserve consecrated bread and wine and kneel before it, why should we not preserve the world with the same reverence?


1 (often reserves) A supply of a commodity not needed for immediate use but available if required: Australia has major coal, gas, and uranium reserves
More example sentences
  • The government used to prop up prices by paying farmers to keep land fallow, setting floor prices for some commodities and building stock reserves.
  • If there is a serious disruption in supply, then those reserves will be tapped.
  • He says that while Australia has significant gas reserves, supplies from overseas will be needed in the future.
stock, store, supply, stockpile, pool, hoard, cache
1.1A force or body of troops kept back from action to reinforce or protect others, or additional to the regular forces and available in an emergency.
Example sentences
  • During the war it housed the reserve troops who would protect the government from invading forces.
  • Those additional officers were provided from the force reserve which is available to ensure we have sufficient organisational flexibility to meet operational demands.
  • He then voluntarily developed and trained a reserve force of assorted Army troops trapped with the Marines.
1.2A member of the military reserve.
Example sentences
  • Attendance allowance is paid to assist a member of the reserves with travel expenses when required to attend a specified place within Australia to render reserve service.
  • If you're a member of the reserves or National Guard, you may be eligible for a new tax deduction this year.
  • Under the U.S. legislation, service with the armed forces is in two periods: the regular forces and the reserve forces.
reinforcements, the militia, extras, auxiliaries
1.3An extra player who is a possible substitute in a team.
Example sentences
  • Presently, the reserve team has 11 players under age 21 including seven high school players.
  • It also makes sure the reserve team isn't over-burdened with senior players keeping youngsters out.
  • He progressed to the reserve team and has played senior rugby with the club for the past four seasons.
backup, substitute, stand-in, relief, replacement, fallback, spare, extra
1.4 (the reserves) The second-string team.
Example sentences
  • You have to knuckle down and get on with it, as there were times when I would be the most senior professional playing in the reserves after travelling with the first team and not being involved.
  • Whilst I have been patient during the last two years it has become very repetitive playing in the reserves and I needed to play to prove to myself that I was capable of performing at that level.
  • Only a fool would put a player of his quality in the reserves for two seasons and his manager is no fool.
1.5Funds kept available by a bank, company, or government: the foreign exchange reserves
More example sentences
  • The gold would then constitute those banks' reserves for their demand deposits.
  • Not all central banks, however, require commercial banks to deposit reserves.
  • A balance of payments deficit or surplus was defined by the sign of the rate of change of a central bank's foreign exchange reserves.
1.6A part of a company’s profits added to capital rather than paid as a dividend.
Example sentences
  • As such, this inclusion of the cash reserves can actually overstate capital and reduce ROCE.
  • In some cases though, the costs charged against profit reserves will impact upon the company's ability to pay dividends.
  • This would see earnings per share fall to a level where the company would have to dip into reserves to pay the dividend at its current level.
2A place set aside for special use, in particular.
Example sentences
  • There are areas where land has been put aside for reserves but are now being used for different things.
  • The reserve contains the remains of an apple and damson orchard.
  • Almost before anyone knew about it, the company was pumping a half million gallons of water a day from an aquifer beneath a hunting reserve.
2.1An area designated as a habitat for an indigenous people.
Example sentences
  • Pursuing missionary work among the Aborigines, he established a native reserve at Poonindie, near Port Lincoln in SA.
  • However, they were greeted by a two-kilometre roadblock of residents from Quebec, New Brunswick and the nearby native reserves.
  • The cigarettes were then allegedly sold to smugglers and brought illegally into Canada through native reserves and border checkpoints.
2.2A protected area for wildlife.
Example sentences
  • Tanzania is almost four times the size of the UK, and 25 per cent of its land mass is protected in national parks, game reserves or conservation areas.
  • Kenya has over 50 national parks and game reserves where wildlife is protected.
  • He looks after the land as a private reserve for wildlife habitat, running marsupials and their predators instead of cows.
national park, sanctuary, preserve, conservation area, protected area, wildlife park
3A lack of warmth or openness in manner or expression: she smiled and some of her natural reserve melted
More example sentences
  • Due to the after-effects of sun and a bottle of Sancerre, my usual British reserve was sadly lacking.
  • However, his plans may be derailed by a combination of intrinsically British factors: natural reserve and a reluctance to get up early in the morning.
  • Only Mrs. Martin and her two daughters were present, and just when their caution and reserve were starting to melt, it was time to leave.
reticence, detachment, distance, remoteness, coolness, aloofness, constraint, formality;
shyness, diffidence, timidity, taciturnity, inhibition
informal standoffishness
3.1Qualification or doubt attached to some statement or claim: she trusted him without reserve
More example sentences
  • Two game systems from my first article in this series qualify as board game systems without reserve: Orion and the piecepack.
  • The presidential elections, however, showed that public opinion polls and sociologists are not to be trusted without reserve.
  • The new leadership accepted his recommendations without reserve.
reservation, qualification, condition, limitation, hesitation, doubt
4 short for reserve price.
Example sentences
  • No reserve has been set although a price in excess of £3.5 million is expected when the pub is auctioned on November 8.
  • Many of the lots will be sold without reserve, and the bulk of the paintings carry estimates of between €500 and €3,000.
  • The reserve has been set at less than half of the retail cost of this bike.
5(In the decoration of ceramics or textiles) an area that still has the original color of the material or the color of the background.
Example sentences
  • Penwork decoration, with designs in reserves on a black background, may itself have first developed within the Tunbridge ware industry.
  • The tops of these pieces were usually decorated with designs and reserves.
  • Penwork decoration, with designs in reserves on a black background, may itself have first developed within the Tunbridge ware industry.


in reserve

Unused and available if required: the platoon that had been kept in reserve
More example sentences
  • We have enough foodgrain in reserve to meet the requirements of one billion citizens.
  • Having so many spare cars in reserve is one reason the crew doesn't feel stressed at the track.
  • He said water affairs was managing water supply in a cycle that extended into next year, and wanted to keep some water in reserve.
available, on hand, ready, in readiness, set aside, at one's disposal



Example sentences
  • The conductor sold us ‘one-ways’ to Egton Bridge and said the line was sometimes busy on a Sunday and quite popular with walkers but seats were not reservable.
  • About two thirds of this turnover is generated by mail services, including the reservable area.
  • It put in generic, reservable rooms with rolling file cabinets, height-adjustable furniture, plug-and-go network wiring and other services.


Example sentences
  • These names may not be used without the consent of the reserver.
  • Reserved books on long loan are recalled by Library staff on behalf of the reserver - the borrower is given one week to return the item.
  • If requested, or if the reservation is made within a week of entry, the permit can be sent to the ranger station chosen by the reserver.


Middle English: from Old French reserver, from Latin reservare 'keep back', from re- 'back' + servare 'to keep'.

  • conserve from Late Middle English:

    This comes via French from Latin conservare ‘to preserve’, the elements of which are con- ‘together’ and servare ‘to keep’. Conservatory (mid 16th century) was originally ‘something that preserves’, with the sense glass house dating from the mid 17th century. Other words from servare are preserve (Late Middle English) from prae ‘in advance’ and servare; observe (Late Middle English) with ob ‘toward’ with the sense ‘pay attention to’; and reserve (Middle English) ‘keep back’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: re·serve

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.