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[spahrs] /spɑrs/
adjective, sparser, sparsest.
thinly scattered or distributed:
a sparse population.
not thick or dense; thin:
sparse hair.
scanty; meager.
Origin of sparse
1715-25; < Latin sparsus, past participle of spargere to scatter, sparge
Related forms
sparsely, adverb
sparseness, sparsity
[spahr-si-tee] /ˈspɑr sɪ ti/ (Show IPA),
unsparse, adjective
unsparsely, adverb
unsparseness, noun
1–3. See scanty.
1–3. abundant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sparse
  • True, the text was a bit sparse, but the numerous pop-ups and side panels kept me well entertained.
  • Skeletal evidence of possible interbreeding is sparse, contentious and inconclusive.
  • These attributes make them durable and dependable even in sparse mountainous terrain.
  • But evacuation centers are sparse, and not everyone has access to high ground.
  • The vegetation is sparse, and cattle and people dominate.
  • Factors that once constrained settlement-sparse water and remoteness, for example-no longer apply.
  • We place patterns on the data, no matter how sparse, in order to make some sense to it.
  • Keeping them constantly on their toes, with sparse moments for rest through their whole working lives.
  • With sparse and brackish water it helps to have an efficient way of removing salts and minerals.
  • Summer showers account for much of the region's sparse precipitation.
British Dictionary definitions for sparse


scattered or scanty; not dense
Derived Forms
sparsely, adverb
sparseness, sparsity, noun
Word Origin
C18: from Latin sparsus, from spargere to scatter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sparse

1727, from Latin sparsus "scattered," past participle of spargere "to scatter, spread," from PIE root *(s)pregh- "to jerk, scatter" (cf. Sanskrit parjanya- "rain, rain god," Avestan fra-sparega "branch, twig," literally "that which is jerked off a tree," Old Norse freknur "freckles," Swedish dialectal sprygg "brisk, active," Lithuanian sprogti "shoot, bud," Old Irish arg "a drop").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sparse in Technology

A sparse matrix (or vector, or array) is one in which most of the elements are zero. If storage space is more important than access speed, it may be preferable to store a sparse matrix as a list of (index, value) pairs or use some kind of hash scheme or associative memory.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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