ne·​ces·​si·​ty | \ ni-ˈse-sə-tē How to pronounce necessity (audio) , -ˈse-stē \
plural necessities

Definition of necessity

1 : the quality or state of being necessary He questioned the necessity for the change.
2a : pressure of circumstance The plane was compelled by necessity to change its course.
b : physical or moral compulsion did it, not because he wanted to, but by necessity
c : impossibility of a contrary order or condition submitting to the necessity imposed by the physical laws of the universe
3 : the quality or state of being in need especially : poverty had come to help them in their necessity
4a : something that is necessary : requirement Many families could not afford the bare necessities of life.
b : an urgent need or desire When his father collapsed, an ambulance became a necessity.
of necessity
: in such a way that it cannot be otherwise also : as a necessary consequence further changes will occur of necessity

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Examples of necessity in a Sentence

Sunscreen is an absolute necessity for the beach. food, clothes, and other basic necessities Getting plenty of rest is a necessity. Without a car, living close to work is a necessity. All we took with us on our hiking trip were the bare necessities.
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Recent Examples on the Web Whereas power plants in the Northeast and the Midwest weatherize for the cold out of necessity, there’s no commercial incentive for Texas facilities to do so, Medlock said. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Here's why gas and coal went offline during the Texas cold-weather catastrophe," 19 Feb. 2021 Perhaps the trait that formed out of necessity was passed down. Mike Klein, Star Tribune, "Searching for a forebear lost to epidemic long-ago," 15 Feb. 2021 Out of necessity, that technology became very good at handling huge numbers of people doing complex, demanding, data-intensive things (not just shopping, but streaming video, running web applications and storing huge amounts of information). New York Times, "What, Exactly, Is Amazon Web Services?," 9 Feb. 2021 The association's Luminarias of Southwest Detroit program was born out of necessity, and also sparked by the desire to create some excitement in the area. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "As Michigan restaurants reopen, outdoor dining grabs part of the spotlight," 1 Feb. 2021 This pragmatism, born of necessity, will always be in fashion. Michael Kimmage, The New Republic, "How Biden Can Achieve a Russian Restoration," 26 Jan. 2021 Telehealth has gone from a novelty to the only way some physicians see patients out of necessity. Bob Blubaugh,, "Navigating the pandemic: Carroll County Health Department faced ‘difficult balancing act’ throughout 2020," 31 Dec. 2020 Still a novice, Garibay, 43, has begun to teach herself the basics of floristry out of necessity. Los Angeles Times, "In East L.A., coronavirus has rewired the rhythms of daily life," 28 Dec. 2020 And Warner’s aggressive pivot to streaming was born out of necessity, with the pandemic having closed most of the nation’s theater capacity. Dan Gallagher, WSJ, "Wonder Woman’s Riskiest Mission Yet," 19 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'necessity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of necessity

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for necessity

Middle English necessite, from Anglo-French necessité, from Latin necessitat-, necessitas, from necesse

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Time Traveler for necessity

Time Traveler

The first known use of necessity was in the 14th century

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Statistics for necessity

Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Necessity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for necessity



English Language Learners Definition of necessity

: something that you must have or do : something that is necessary
formal : the quality of being necessary


ne·​ces·​si·​ty | \ ni-ˈse-sə-tē How to pronounce necessity (audio) \
plural necessities

Kids Definition of necessity

1 : the state of things that forces certain actions The necessity of eating forced her to work.
2 : very great need Call us for help in case of necessity.
3 : the state of being in need : poverty I am forced by necessity to beg.
4 : something that is badly needed He bought a few necessities before his trip.


plural necessities

Legal Definition of necessity

1a : the presence or pressure of circumstances that justify or compel a certain course of action especially : a need to respond or react to a dangerous situation by committing a criminal act
b : an affirmative defense originating in common law that the defendant had to commit a criminal act because of the pressure of a situation that threatened a harm greater than that resulting from the act — see also choice of evils defense at defense sense 2a — compare duress, undue influence
2 : something that is necessary especially to subsistence obligated to provide the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter

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