We discuss the largest and most homogeneous spectroscopic data set of field RR Lyrae variables (RRLs) available to date. We estimated abundances using both high-resolution and low-resolution (ΔS method) spectra for fundamental (RRab) and first overtone (RRc) RRLs. The iron abundances for 7941 RRLs were supplemented with similar estimates that are available in the literature, ending up with 9015 RRLs (6150 RRab, 2865 RRc). The metallicity distribution shows a mean value of ⟨[Fe/H]⟩ = -1.51 ± 0.01, and σ(standard deviation) = 0.41 dex with a long metal-poor tail approaching [Fe/H] ≃ - 3 and a sharp metal-rich tail approaching solar iron abundance. The RRab variables are more metal-rich (⟨[Fe/H]⟩ab = -1.48 ± 0.01, σ = 0.41 dex) than RRc variables (⟨[Fe/H]⟩c = -1.58 ± 0.01, σ = 0.40 dex). The relative fraction of RRab variables in the Bailey diagram (visual amplitude versus period) located along the short-period (more metal-rich) and the long-period (more metal-poor) sequences are 80% and 20%, while RRc variables display an opposite trend, namely 30% and 70%, respectively. We found that the pulsation period of both RRab and RRc variables steadily decreases when moving from the metal-poor to the metal-rich regime. The visual amplitude shows the same trend, but RRc amplitudes are almost two times more sensitive than RRab amplitudes to metallicity. We also investigated the dependence of the population ratio (Nc/Ntot) of field RRLs on the metallicity and we found that the distribution is more complex than in globular clusters. The population ratio steadily increases from ~0.25 to ~0.36 in the metal-poor regime, it decreases from ~0.36 to ~0.18 for -1.8 ≤ [Fe/H] ≤ -0.9 and it increases to a value of ~0.3 approaching solar iron abundance. * Based on observations obtained with the du Pont telescope at Las Campanas Observatory, operated by Carnegie Institution for Science. Based in part on data collected at Subaru Telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. Based partly on data obtained with the STELLA robotic telescopes in Tenerife, an AIP facility jointly operated by AIP and IAC. Some of the observations reported in this paper were obtained with the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). Based on observations made with the Italian Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG) operated on the island of La Palma by the Fundación Galileo Galilei of the INAF (Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica) at the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. Based on observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere.