being without; not having; wanting; less: Lacking equipment, the laboratory couldn't undertake the research project.


wanting; deficient: He was found lacking in stamina.

Origin of lacking

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at lack, -ing2




deficiency or absence of something needed, desirable, or customary: lack of money; lack of skill.
something missing or needed: After he left, they really felt the lack.

verb (used with object)

to be without or deficient in: to lack ability; to lack the necessities of life.
to fall short in respect of: He lacks three votes to win.

verb (used without object)

to be absent or missing, as something needed or desirable: Three votes are lacking to make a majority.

Verb Phrases

lack in, to be short of or deficient in: What he lacks in brains, he makes up for in brawn.

Origin of lack

1125–75; Middle English lak; cognate with Middle Low German lak, Middle Dutch lac deficiency; akin to Old Norse lakr deficient

Synonyms for lack

Synonym study

3. Lack, want, need, require as verbs all stress the absence of something desirable, important, or necessary. Lack means to be without or to have less than a desirable quantity of something: to lack courage, sufficient money, enough members to make a quorum. Want may imply some urgency in fulfilling a requirement or a desire: Willing workers are badly wanted. The room wants some final touch to make it homey. Need often suggests even more urgency than does want stressing the necessity of supplying what is lacking: to need an operation, better food, a match to light the fire. Require, which expresses necessity as strongly as need, occurs most frequently in serious or formal contexts: Your presence at the hearing is required. Successful experimentation requires careful attention to detail.

Antonyms for lack Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for lacking

Contemporary Examples of lacking

Historical Examples of lacking

  • "He certainly is not lacking in audacity," thought Mr. Morgan.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • And not only are these gone, but we are lacking in a knowledge of Hebrew phraseology.

  • He began to understand, for he was not lacking in intelligence.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Mary's usual quickness was not lacking even now, in this period of extremity.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • All these characteristics are lacking in the works after "Timon."

British Dictionary definitions for lacking



an insufficiency, shortage, or absence of something required or desired
something that is required but is absent or in short supply


(when intr, often foll by in or for) to be deficient (in) or have need (of)to lack purpose

Word Origin for lack

C12: related to Middle Dutch laken to be wanting
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for lacking



c.1300, "absence, want; shortage, deficiency," perhaps from an unrecorded Old English *lac, or else borrowed from Middle Dutch lak "deficiency, fault;" in either case from Proto-Germanic *laka- (cf. Old Frisian lek "disadvantage, damage," Old Norse lakr "lacking"), from PIE *leg- "to dribble, trickle." Middle English also had lackless "without blame or fault."



late 12c., perhaps from Middle Dutch laken "to be wanting," from lak (n.) "deficiency, fault," or an unrecorded native cognate word (see lack (n.)). Related: Lacked; lacking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper