Definition of need in English:


Syllabification: need
Pronunciation: /nēd


[with object]
  • 1Require (something) because it is essential or very important: I need help now [with present participle]: this shirt needs washing [with infinitive]: they need to win tomorrow
    More example sentences
    • Your support is urgently needed to ensure the success of this worthy endeavor.
    • Each attack requires a costly clean-up, using money which is desperately needed for other purposes.
    • Everyone appreciates that the government urgently needs to address a wad of issues - the most obvious being poverty.
    require, be in need of, have need of, want; be crying out for, be desperate for; demand, call for, necessitate, entail, involve; lack, be without, be short of
  • 1.1 (not need something) Not want to be subjected to something: I don’t need your sarcasm
    More example sentences
    • They are the lowest form of political pond life and we do not need them.
    • We do not need our emotions manipulated any more than they have been.
    • God knows our players do not need their egos inflating any further.
  • 2 [as modal verb with negative or in questions] Expressing necessity or obligation: need I say more? I need not have worried
    More example sentences
    • You need only go one stop on the tube to find a very different Britain.
    • Olympiakos need only draw, but will carry to Anfield one of the poorest away records in the competition.
    have to, be obliged to, be compelled to
  • 3 [no object] archaic Be necessary: lest you, even more than needs, embitter our parting


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  • 1Circumstances in which something is necessary, or that require some course of action; necessity: the basic human need for food [with infinitive]: there’s no need to cry
    More example sentences
    • A need for counting arose, then writing and numerals were needed to record transactions.
    • There was a need for emergency type accommodation in Laois under the new strategy.
    • Purvis rightly identifies a need for a more complete, more nuanced assessment.
    necessity, obligation, requirement, call, demand


at need

archaic When needed; in an emergency: men whose experience could be called upon at need
More example sentences
  • It won't be quite as absorptive as the commercial variety, but it's a good deal cheaper and can be improvised at need.
  • It becomes a tool, something you can use at need, not something that uses you.
  • In truth, those fighting in the north were able to retreat westward at need, but their numbers and strength were sorely needed to help prevent, or at the least, hinder the Enemy from driving directly south through Alin.

had need

archaic Ought to: you had need hire men to chip it all over artistically

have need of

formal Need: Alida had need of company
More example sentences
  • Its only real use is as a football ground and there are no league clubs who have need of it.
  • Any radiation specialist medical personnel we have are at your disposal, if you have need of them.
  • A few weeks ago, you may recall that I had need of the RAC's assistance, and received appalling service. Of course, I wrote to complain about this.

if need be

If necessary.
More example sentences
  • The room is quite large, it happens to be fitted for at least two girls to spend the night in if need be.
  • The place is accessible from the Intracoastal, so they can move in and out during the night if need be.
  • Stake out the village at night with infra-red cameras and the SAS if need be.

in need of

Requiring or needing (something): he was in desperate need of medical care
More example sentences
  • The shop is also in need of good quality items to sell such as clothes, books and bric-a-brac.
  • Of course the finance industry is not the only place in need of of some house cleaning.
  • The central concepts of this work remain disputed and in need of close scholarly argument.


Old English nēodian (verb), nēod, nēd (noun), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch nood and German Not 'danger'.

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