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noun, plural ne·ces·si·ties.
  1. something necessary or indispensable: food, shelter, and other necessities of life.
  2. the fact of being necessary or indispensable; indispensability: the necessity of adequate housing.
  3. an imperative requirement or need for something: the necessity for a quick decision.
  4. the state or fact of being necessary or inevitable: to face the necessity of testifying in court.
  5. an unavoidable need or compulsion to do something: not by choice but by necessity.
  6. a state of being in financial need; poverty: a family in dire necessity.
  7. Philosophy. the quality of following inevitably from logical, physical, or moral laws.
  1. of necessity, as an inevitable result; unavoidably; necessarily: Our trip to China must of necessity be postponed for a while.

Origin of necessity

1325–75; Middle English necessite < Latin necessitās, equivalent to necess(e) needful + -itās -ity
Related formsnon·ne·ces·si·ty, noun, plural non·ne·ces·si··per·ne·ces·si·ty, noun, plural su·per·ne·ces·si·ties.

Synonyms for necessity

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Synonym study

3. See need. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for necessity

Contemporary Examples of necessity

Historical Examples of necessity

British Dictionary definitions for necessity


noun plural -ties
  1. (sometimes plural) something needed for a desired result; prerequisitenecessities of life
  2. a condition or set of circumstances, such as physical laws or social rules, that inevitably requires a certain resultit is a matter of necessity to wear formal clothes when meeting the Queen
  3. the state or quality of being obligatory or unavoidable
  4. urgent requirement, as in an emergency or misfortunein time of necessity we must all work together
  5. poverty or want
  6. rare compulsion through laws of nature; fate
  7. philosophy
    1. a condition, principle, or conclusion that cannot be otherwise
    2. the constraining force of physical determinants on all aspects of lifeCompare freedom (def. 8)
  8. logic
    1. the property of being necessary
    2. a statement asserting that some property is essential or statement is necessarily true
    3. the operator that indicates that the expression it modifies is true in all possible worldsUsual symbol: ,
  9. of necessity inevitably; necessarily
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 necessity

late 14c., "constraining power of circumstances," from Old French necessité "need, necessity; privation, poverty; distress, torment; obligation, duty" (12c.), from Latin necessitatem (nominative necessitas) "compulsion, need for attention, unavoidableness, destiny," from necesse (see necessary). Meaning "condition of being in need" in English is from late 15c.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention. [Richard Franck, c.1624-1708, English author and angler, "Northern Memoirs," 1658]

To maken vertu of necessite is in Chaucer. Related: Necessities.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with necessity


In addition to the idiom beginning with necessity

  • necessity is the mother of invention

also see:

  • make a virtue of necessity
  • of necessity
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.