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need·​ful ˈnēd-fəl How to pronounce needful (audio)
: being in need
needfully adverb
needfulness noun


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: something needed or requisite
: money

Example Sentences

Adjective What's most needful now is patience. let's first help the needful families in our own community Noun fortunately, the family had the needful to stock up the larder before the long hard winter packed a warm jacket and other needfuls for an autumn weekend in the country
Recent Examples on the Web
They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful. James Freeman, WSJ, 27 Dec. 2022 Sometimes environments and selection pressures change radically, and large effect mutations may become needful. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 18 May 2010 For Queen and other Black poets, hip-hop is not only beats and rhymes but something more needful. Adam Bradley, New York Times, 4 Mar. 2021 Oxfam exhorts its supporters to send things to the needful Cratchits of the developing world. Matthew Sweet, The Economist, 4 Dec. 2020 McBride was touched by the way, in their later years, Marcroft was the primary caregiver for Joyce, who had become needful of that care. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 Nov. 2020 Many proponents of critical race theory — whose animating idea is that race is the one thing needful, the single lens through which all other phenomena should be viewed — are indeed trying to compel compliance. Greg Weiner, National Review, 10 Sep. 2020 Soon we may be pressed into other kinds of service—adult medicine, or ICU medicine, or whatever is most needful. Anastasia Edel, The New York Review of Books, 22 Mar. 2020 Vincent had pushed his sunglasses back across his forehead, which made his face seem small, like that of a needful pet. New York Times, 18 Feb. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'needful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1671, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1614, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of needful was in 1614

Dictionary Entries Near needful

Cite this Entry

“Needful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


: necessary for a purpose
needfulness noun

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