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

The church is one of several locations in central Mississippi where families have been turning for basic necessities and to speak with immigration attorneys after last week's raids. CNN, "Their parents were taken in Mississippi immigration raids. For these kids, the trauma is just beginning," 11 Aug. 2019 Food, medical supplies and other basic necessities appeared to be scarce. Tyrone Beason, The Seattle Times, "For gay, lesbian and trans migrants, a different journey awaits," 4 Aug. 2019 On Thursday, Chancellor Sajid Javid is expected to announce £2.1 billion ($2.5 billion) in extra funding—on top of that already allocated—to try and soften the blow, and deal with potential shortages of basic necessities, like medicine. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, "In India and China, Scandals Blunt Investor Confidence: CEO Daily," 1 Aug. 2019 At the meeting, board members approved a declaration of necessity allowing the millage amount to be determined by the Medina County auditor. Brian Lisik,, "Brunswick school board to put operating levy on November ballot," 23 July 2019 In the Texas heat, bottled water is a lifeline for Betty Bivens, one of the last holdouts in Sandbranch, a Dallas County community that lacks the most basic necessity: running water. Lavendrick Smith, Dallas News, "After tragedy, a Dallas County community still holds out hope running water will one day come," 22 July 2019 Shortages of food, medicine, electricity, and other basic necessities are documented. Nicholas Frankovich, National Review, "In a United Nations Report, a Socialist Details Venezuela’s Horrors," 17 July 2019 In a grotesque display of inhuman callousness, countless families are being held at the U.S. border without access to basic necessities like soap and toothbrushes. Kim Kelly, Allure, "Angels With Dirty Faces," 12 July 2019 While many are calling for the migrant detention centers to be shut down, many of the people in them are still going without beds or other basic necessities. Tanya Edwards,, "Inside Wayfair Employees' Protest Of The Company's Business With Migrant Detention Centers," 30 June 2019

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

14 Aug 2019

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
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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