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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The pair had parted company under less-than-harmonious circumstances when the group dissolved less than two years earlier, but necessity — and talent — drew them together once again. Jordan Runtagh,, "Graham Nash Tells the Wild Tales Behind His Most Enduring Songs," 29 June 2018 Fill it with all the necessities of a family day in the water. Kroger, The Courier-Journal, "School's out for summer! Now what? Simplify with these 6 tips for parents," 18 June 2018 Although The Jaybird is, by legal necessity, a business, none of the founders look to the project for income. Birmingham Magazine,, "Collaborative community space hosts music, art shows," 12 Apr. 2018 The women do not leave the grounds for any reason other than necessity, like an occasional medical appointment. Anchorage Daily News, "The unseen world of Anchorage’s cloistered nuns," 9 Apr. 2018 Today, the program provides shelter, basic necessities, and services to women, children, and families living in extreme poverty or that are affected by human-trafficking, domestic violence, or serious illnesses. Alexis Reliford, Good Housekeeping, "This Mom, Once Homeless, Now Helps Families in Need With “Houses of Hope”," 9 Apr. 2018 Wochit The tall wooden cabinet outside the University Islamic Center of Detroit in Midtown is open to all and crammed with necessities. Aleanna Siacon, Detroit Free Press, "Midtown Detroit blessing box: Take what you need, leave what you can," 8 Apr. 2018 Platitudes that tick the box of necessity, carefully constructed to minimize offense. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Silicon Valley 'Has No Words'," 4 Apr. 2018 Behind the scenes the game was like a hectic film set where everything was, of necessity, chaos. Eric Thurm, WIRED, "An Alternate Reality Game That Takes Freshmen Orientation to a New Level," 25 Mar. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about necessity

Statistics for necessity

Last Updated

23 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for necessity

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on necessity

What made you want to look up necessity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!