As far as I know, spare means extra or more than you need. With that being said, what would be the meaning of "spare diet" in the following sentence?

To content myself with a spare diet

I can't understand someone contenting himself with extra food!


This is a great question, because it highlights one of those cases (which I'm sure must be very annoying to English learners) where a word can mean two different, opposite things.

The meanings of the word spare which are intended here are:

4 : healthily lean

5 : not abundant or plentiful

In other words, the author is saying they are putting up with a frugal or minimal (rather than plentiful) diet. You are right that this is, in some sense, the opposite of the more common meanings:

1 : not being used

2 : being over and above what is needed

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