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 submittimg 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

Others have backpacks with necessities, like a solar-powered radio, that can also be used for camping or during a temporary power outage., "Ready for the ‘Big One’? What you need now to prepare for an earthquake," 9 July 2019 Then, the Warriors considered it a bonus, and not a necessity, for their young players to accelerate their development. Mark Medina, The Mercury News, "NBA free agency: How will the Warriors fare with a young roster?," 2 July 2019 Purge, Purge, Purge A closet should be filled with your necessities. Monique Valeris, ELLE Decor, "How Closet Designer Lisa Adams Dreams Up Celebrity-Worthy Spaces," 1 July 2019 Some regard the fishery as a necessity, like a stop at the wild grocery store. Anchorage Daily News, "Join the Russian River crowd for the guarantee of salmon, or fish in peace with much lower odds?," 25 June 2019 This chic multi-compartment crossbody bag features an envelope snap pocket that perfectly fits a smartphone, and two zippered compartments to neatly stow all of your necessities and then some. Jessica Teich, Good Housekeeping, "Coach Is Having an Incredible Summer Sale — And You're Going to Want to Stock Up," 29 May 2019 Yet if necessity is the mother of invention — or, in Schwartz’s case, perhaps re-invention — the Colorado Springs native made the most of those long-range struggles. Pat Rooney, The Denver Post, "3-point drought helped CU Buffs’ D’Shawn Schwartz to expand game," 24 June 2019 The necessity of migration when climate change hits home is all too real around the world. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Said Climate Change and Immigration Are Connected — Here's Why She's Right," 11 Apr. 2019 The only expendable necessity would be the honeybees. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Beekeeping for Beginners: Everything to Know About Starting Your Own Colony," 5 Apr. 2019

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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Statistics for necessity

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for necessity

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

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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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