ne·ces·si·ty | \ ni-ˈse-sə-tē , -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

That's still not ideal, obviously, and makes filters a necessity. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "The Flint Water Crisis Is Bigger Than Elon Musk," 12 July 2018 Going to a supermarket used to be a drag, a necessity. Trevor Fraser,, "DJ Paul Van Dyk spins across the globe," 28 June 2018 The debate surrounding face-covering veils has surfaced in many countries around the world, with different sides portraying the ban as an attack on religious freedom or a necessity to enforce national security. Madeleine Ngo, Vox, "The Netherlands just passed a law banning face veils in public buildings," 26 June 2018 In November 2016, Peniel revealed on Korean talk show Hello Counselor, which people share their stories and receive advice from celebrity guests, the short haircut was more of a necessity than a bold style choice. Devon Abelman, Allure, "K-Pop Star Peniel of BTOB Opens Up About His Struggle With Hair Loss Due to Alopecia," 12 June 2018 The Scandinavian farmers who settled there in the 1800s had brought with them a communitarian mind-set born of necessity. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "How Conservatives Bet Big on Wisconsin and Won," 11 July 2018 Out of necessity, female cyclists looked for alternatives, and many chose another garment that had been advocated by dress reformers decades earlier: a sturdy, waist-length cotton camisole with shoulder straps. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Wheel, the Woman, and the Human Body," 6 July 2018 Officially listed as a righthander on the Phillies roster, Velasquez evidently honed his left-handed throwing ability years earlier, out of necessity. Tom Avril,, "Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez can throw with either hand. What does that say about his brain?," 3 July 2018 The company and its product, marketed as a sustainable and convenient alternative to plastic bags, were born out of necessity. Ethan Millman,, "How one couple turned grocery bagging into a fast-growing business," 29 June 2018

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

11 Sep 2018

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

: the quality of being necessary


ne·ces·si·ty | \ ni-ˈse-sə-tē \
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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