Definition of necessary in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈnesəˌserē/


1Required to be done, achieved, or present; needed; essential: members are admitted only after they have gained the necessary experience it’s not necessary for you to be here
More example sentences
  • We had always stayed out of each others private business, prying only when we deemed it absolutely necessary.
  • A jury of experts reviewed a draft of the survey and made changes where necessary.
  • Often it's impossible for the architect of a company to make the changes necessary to ensure it survives.
obligatory, requisite, required, compulsory, mandatory, imperative, needed, de rigueur;
essential, indispensable, vital
2Determined, existing, or happening by natural laws or predestination; inevitable: a necessary consequence
More example sentences
  • As much as I'd like to think that spying doesn't happen, it's going to happen as a necessary consequence of competition.
  • The magazine, he says, is ‘a necessary consequence of their superstar status’.
  • He saw radical skepticism as a necessary consequence of the misery of the human condition.
inevitable, unavoidable, inescapable, inexorable, ineluctable;
predetermined, preordained
2.1 Philosophy (Of a concept, statement, judgment, etc.) inevitably resulting from or produced by the nature of things, so that the contrary is impossible.
Example sentences
  • Bacon and Locke had discussed the question of a necessary knowledge of nature from a scholastic standpoint.
  • If it is shown that the opinion actually formed is not an opinion of this character, then the necessary opinion does not exist.
  • There could be no solution, they claimed, until the mind first grasped the necessary idea.
2.2 Philosophy (Of an agent) having no independent volition.
Example sentences
  • The sixth is that if a man were not a necessary agent he would be ignorant of morality and have no motive to practice it.


(usually necessaries, also necessaries of life)
1The basic requirements of life, such as food and warmth.
Example sentences
  • Shelter, medicine, basic schooling, and even necessaries like food and water were now being provided to the million upon million of starving adults, and their children.
  • Others resort to exploitation, as in the case of an injured officer who, with the help of a resentful assistant, attempts to trade tobacco leaves with the retreating soldiers in exchange for food and other necessaries.
  • Work was about to be resumed at the Emergency Kitchen for the relief of the sick poor of York, which was for the immediate relief of all poor persons who were ill, and too poor to afford the pressing necessaries their sufferings required.
1.1Small items required for a particular journey or purpose: I hastily threw a few necessaries into a kit bag
More example sentences
  • He wrote, ‘The accepted doctrine is, that capital is anything saved or reserved for the payment of labor not employed in, or devoted to the production of the immediate necessaries of life.’
  • They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants.
  • On the other hand, the poor law unions had a legal obligation to ensure that nobody died of starvation, malnutrition, or ‘the want of the necessaries of life.’


a necessary evil

Something that is undesirable but must be accepted.
Example sentences
  • In fact they enter the course regarding cryptography as a necessary evil that must be endured in order for them to obtain an Information Security qualification.
  • If this was making inroads into the problem then many Americans would reluctantly accept this as a necessary evil.
  • But if lights are occasionally necessary, they are a necessary evil.


Late Middle English: from Latin necessarius, from necesse 'needful'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: nec·es·sar·y

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