What is the difference between "scarce" and "rare"?

And how to say the following?

diamond is (rare, scarce)

My English teacher has said that there is a difference between the two words, later, I asked him for more explanation but I couldn't fully understand. He said that rare is to describe the valuable thing, for example --> ‘rare pearl’, and scarce for the thing being elusive and can't be easily obtained as there is not enough amount of it.

  • The first thing to do when asking a question like this is: look up the two words in a dictionary, and include what you found in your question. If you do not do that, then your question may be "put on hold" until you do.
    – GEdgar
    Mar 28, 2019 at 12:35
  • 4
    Excellent question (unfortunately marred by a typo). It is not clear from the dictionary how these might be different (and they are definitely very close), but in actual usage they are not confused. But a quick look at the two dictionary definitions should show you how they are different. Rare means very infrequent; scarce means not enough for demand. They seem to imply each other (and are surely correlated) but logically I can think of situations where one is the case but the other is not. Scarcity is about demand; rarity only about frequency. Always check a dictionary first.
    – Mitch
    Mar 28, 2019 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


Your teacher is somewhat right about the difference. Yet, @Mitch defines the words correctly in the comments.

  • Rare is used for something valuable, but something that is not in demand or is not necessity of people.

According to Google:

"(of a thing) not found in large numbers and so of interest or value."

For example: Diamonds are rare.

  • Scarce is used for something that is needed by people, is in high demand.

As Google describes it:

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

For Example: Food became scarce in the town.

  • 2
    Diamonds are not actually rare, but a scarcity is produced by the industry to increase the price!
    – user323578
    Apr 30, 2019 at 11:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.