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 Last season, necessity led to Bickerstaff finding a workable big lineup, playing Nance at small forward. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Cleveland Cavaliers using style from a different era -- and it’s working," 10 Jan. 2021 For some, starting a business later in life is a matter of financial necessity. Mariel Padilla, USA TODAY, "‘It’s never too late’: Entrepreneurial spirit drives older women," 6 Jan. 2021 The famous philosophical razor attributed to William of Ockham states that entities should not be multiplied without necessity. Hari Kunzru, Harpers Magazine, "Complexity," 5 Jan. 2021 Izzo said moving Watts was borne partly out of the necessity to replace Winston but also because of a knee injury freshman A.J. Hoggard had surgically repaired shortly before the season that left him a bit behind. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball's Tom Izzo: Rocket Watts at shooting guard is best for us now," 2 Jan. 2021 Tarrant sleeps with hand braces each night — a necessity after decades of doing hair. Dallas News, "‘Journey fulfilled:’ Earnestine’s Beauty Shop closes after 41 years in South Dallas," 1 Jan. 2021 Leo learns to fight out of necessity in this tough environment, which catches the attention of a local boxing coach. Washington Post, "What to watch on Thursday: ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ on Netflix," 31 Dec. 2020 Games without fans really strips the experience down to economic necessity. Jason Gay, WSJ, "All I Want for Sports in 2021? You!," 29 Dec. 2020 It’s not always easy to coordinate with other people, which sometimes makes solo travel a necessity. oregonlive, "Solo travel can be a difficult, but rewarding experience: Peak Northwest podcast," 24 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

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Necessity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for necessity


How to pronounce necessity (audio)

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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