scarce (adj.)

c. 1300, scarse, "restricted in quantity, barely sufficient in amount or effect; few in number, rare, seldom seen," from Old North French scars "scanty, scarce" (Old French eschars, Modern French échars), which according to OED is from Vulgar Latin *scarsus, from a presumed *escarpsus, earlier *excarpsus, past participle of *excarpere "pluck out," from classical Latin excerpere "pluck out" (see excerpt).

As an adverb, "hardly, scarcely," early 14c., from the adjective. Phrase make (oneself) scarce "go away, leave at once," is attested by 1771, noted then as a current cant phrase. Related: Scarcely.

updated on January 18, 2022