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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The freedom to work from home — a necessity during the pandemic — has proved to be a blessing for Rosenback. Paul Wiseman, ajc, 6 May 2022 Democrats across the nation are facing the vexing question of how to compete for Latino voters -- a growing electoral necessity -- amid a relentless push from Republicans to win over this diverse constituency group. Abhi Rahman, CNN, 5 May 2022 It’s also a matter of functional necessity, Fesenko said, to deal with processes like paying pensions and salaries to create a semblance of normal life under Russian control. Yuliya Talmazan, NBC News, 5 May 2022 Maybe our poor and wanting selves are our only authentic ones, and all others performances of convenience or necessity. Rafia Zakaria, The New Republic, 5 May 2022 This is one of the driving conditions that make a comprehensive cyber security approach an operational and technological necessity. Emil Sayegh, Forbes, 5 May 2022 But as small fishing operations have struggled with higher costs, dwindling fish stocks, and steeper competition from larger boats, some fishing families have seen wives or daughters step up out of economic necessity. Eduardo Leal, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 May 2022 People already self-manage their abortions by choice or out of necessity due to restrictive state laws and booked-up out-of-state clinics. Christine Grimaldi, SELF, 3 May 2022 Retailers have viewed Instacart as a helpful introduction to online delivery but not a necessity, the grocery industry people said. New York Times, 29 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Necessity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for necessity


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

More from Merriam-Webster on necessity

Nglish: Translation of necessity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of necessity for Arabic Speakers


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