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 What began as necessity quickly became a strategy, a way to maximize her message outside traditional methods of displaying art. Megan O’grady, New York Times, "Barbara Kruger," 19 Oct. 2020 The Democratic House has twice passed multitrillion-dollar packages to provide more help and to stimulate the economy, but members of a divided Republican Senate, questioning the cost and necessity, have proposed smaller plans. Jason Deparle, Star Tribune, "Millions in U.S. have fallen into poverty as aid dried up," 15 Oct. 2020 Many people are working from home these days, which makes a good office chair an absolute necessity. Underscored Staff, CNN Underscored, "25 of the best holiday gifts to give (or get) this year," 15 Oct. 2020 Now, no-haggle pricing and digital paperwork are quickly becoming a necessity. Kyle Stock,, "Covid and a Crowd of Startups Are Forever Changing How Americans Buy Cars," 15 Oct. 2020 You could be filled with romantic longings, but necessity calls. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Oct. 15, 2020: Gemini, finish with a flourish; Libra, don’t take obstacles personally," 15 Oct. 2020 Nor does every buyer want to shell out $1,000 or more for a device that has become a near necessity. Dan Gallagher, WSJ, "Apple’s New iPhones Aim High and Wide," 13 Oct. 2020 Jon Taylor, a professional photographer based in New York City, has offered any artists out of work a free headshot, a necessity that can be extremely expensive for performers. Zoe Christen Jones, CBS News, "Broadway performers face uncertainty: "The future is completely anyone's guess at this point"," 13 Oct. 2020 By necessity or design, these have become the most important ingredients of playoff bullpen management. Mike Digiovanna Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Dodgers can win without a traditional closer. Look at the last three champions," 11 Oct. 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

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Necessity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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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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