of necessity; necessarily (usually preceded or followed by must): It must needs be so. It needs must be.

Origin of needs

before 1000; Middle English nedis, Old English nēdes, orig. genitive of nēd need; see -s1




a requirement, necessary duty, or obligation: There is no need for you to go there.
a lack of something wanted or deemed necessary: to fulfill the needs of the assignment.
urgent want, as of something requisite: He has no need of your charity.
necessity arising from the circumstances of a situation or case: There is no need to worry.
a situation or time of difficulty; exigency: to help a friend in need; to be a friend in need.
a condition marked by the lack of something requisite: the need for leadership.
destitution; extreme poverty: The family's need is acute.

verb (used with object)

to have need of; require: to need money.

verb (used without object)

to be under an obligation (used as an auxiliary, typically in an interrogative or in a negative statement, and followed by infinitive, in certain cases without to; in the 3d person singular the form is need, not needs): He need not go.
to be in need or want.
to be necessary: There needs no apology.


    if need be, should the necessity arise: If need be, I can type the letters myself.

Origin of need

before 900; (noun) Middle English nede, Old English nēd (WSaxon nīed), cognate with German Not, Old Norse nauth, Gothic nauths; (v.) Middle English neden, Old English nēodian, derivative of the noun
Related formsneed·er, nounun·need·ed, adjectivewell-need·ed, adjective

Synonyms for need

Synonym study

2, 3. See lack. 4. Need, necessity imply a want, a lack, or a demand, which must be filled. Need, a word of Old English origin, has connotations that make it strong in emotional appeal: the need to be appreciated. Necessity, a word of Latin origin, is more formal and impersonal or objective; though much stronger than need in expressing urgency or imperative demand, it is less effective in appealing to the emotions: Water is a necessity for living things. 7. See poverty.

Antonyms for need

7. wealth. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for needs

Contemporary Examples of needs

Historical Examples of needs

  • As if you could be trusted with anything again that needs a schoolboy's intelligence.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He needs a clerk for his law matters, and the Dean said he would speak of me to him.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • Somewhere there is a ship that needs it, or if not, the light does its duty.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • I am extremely affected on my mother's account—more, I must needs say, than on my own.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • I must needs try my new-fledged pinions in sonnet, elogy, and madrigal.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

British Dictionary definitions for needs



(preceded or foll by must) of necessitywe must needs go; we will go, if needs must

pl n

what is required; necessitiesthe needs of the third world; his needs are modest



(tr) to be in want ofto need money
(tr) to require or be required of necessity (to be or do something); be obligedto need to do more work
(takes an infinitive without to) used as an auxiliary in negative and interrogative sentences to express necessity or obligation, and does not add -s when used with he, she, it, and singular nounsneed he go?
(intr) archaic to be essential or necessary tothere needs no reason for this


the fact or an instance of feeling the lack of somethinghe has need of a new coat
a requirementthe need for vengeance
necessity or obligation resulting from some situationno need to be frightened
distress or extremitya friend in need
extreme poverty or destitution; penury
See also needs

Word Origin for need

Old English nēad, nied; related to Old Frisian nēd, Old Saxon nōd, Old High German nōt
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 needs

"of necessity, necessarily," in archaic constructions involving must (late 14c.) is from Old English nede, instrumental and genitive singular of nied (see need), used as an adverb reinforcing must, hence the genitive ending.



Old English nied (West Saxon), ned (Mercian) "necessity, compulsion, duty; hardship, distress; errand, business," originally "violence, force," from Proto-Germanic *nauthis (cf. Old Saxon nod, Old Norse nauðr, Old Frisian ned, Middle Dutch, Dutch nood, Old High German not, German Not, Gothic nauþs "need"), probably cognate with Old Prussian nautin "need," and perhaps with Old Church Slavonic nazda, Russian nuzda, Polish nędza "misery, distress," from PIE *nau- "death, to be exhausted" (see narwhal).

The more common Old English word for "need, necessity, want" was ðearf, but they were connected via a notion of "trouble, pain," and the two formed a compound, niedðearf "need, necessity, compulsion, thing needed." Nied also might have been influenced by Old English neod "desire, longing," which often was spelled the same. Common in Old English compounds, e.g. niedfaru "compulsory journey," a euphemism for "death;" niedhæmed "rape," the second element being an Old English word meaning "sexual intercourse;" niedling "slave." Meaning "extreme poverty, destitution" is from c.1200.



Old English neodian "be necessary, be required (for some purpose); require, have need of," from the same root as need (n.). Meaning "to be under obligation (to do something)" is from late 14c. Related: Needed; needing. The adjectival phrase need-to-know is attested from 1952. Dismissive phrase who needs it?, popular from c.1960, is a translated Yiddishism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with needs


In addition to the idiom beginning with need

  • needle in a haystack
  • needless to say
  • need like a hole in the head

also see:

  • cry for (crying need for).
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.