Definition of want in English:

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Pronunciation: /wänt/


1 [with object] Have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for: I want an apple [with infinitive]: we want to go to the beach [with object and infinitive]: she wanted me to go to her room [no object]: I’ll give you a lift into town if you want
More example sentences
  • So when it came to choosing her object of desire, she wanted an attractive object with a practical side.
  • He takes a risk because he thinks he can get away with it because the facts may well turn out to support his editor's desire and he wants a quiet life and to be obliging.
  • Feel the heat of desire, forget wanting a new car.
desire, wish for, hope for, aspire to, fancy, care for, like;
long for, yearn for, crave, hanker after, hunger for, thirst for, cry out for, covet;
informal have a yen for, have a jones for, be dying for
1.1Wish to consult or speak to (someone): Tony wants me in the studio
More example sentences
  • He wants to speak to me tomorrow, or rather, as he put it, he wants me to speak to him.
  • The moderator was flagging me down because he wanted me to speak for a couple of minutes.
  • Students care a lot about their future and they want someone powerful to speak to them.
1.2 (usually be wanted) (Of the police) desire to question or apprehend (a suspected criminal): he is wanted by the police in connection with an arms theft
More example sentences
  • He was named as wanted by Bedfordshire Police in 1998 in connection with the murder of Mr Farrow.
  • There are around 700 bail dodgers in Bolton who are wanted by police on outstanding warrants.
  • She is known to have had a relationship with a homeless man who was wanted by police in connection with a stolen credit card.
1.3Desire (someone) sexually: I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you
More example sentences
  • I've always tried to please him with the clothes I buy but him not wanting me sexually I find very hurtful.
  • So Kathy is reduced to tears of frustration as she waits to see whether Anna wants her as a sexual partner.
1.4 [with present participle] informal, chiefly British (Of a thing) require to be attended to in a specified way: the wheel wants greasing
More example sentences
  • The whole lot wants digging up and replacing with a small roundabout like it should have been since day one.
1.5 [with infinitive] informal Ought, should, or need to do something: you don’t want to believe everything you hear
More example sentences
  • I want to believe everything the marketing people tell me about whisky, and more besides.
  • Like the lover let down on a thousand occasions already, we wanted to believe that this time everything would be all right.
  • He had the kind of personality that made you want to believe everything he said, even if he said the sky was pink.
should, ought to, need to, must
1.6 [no object] (want in/into/out/away) informal, chiefly North American Desire to be in or out of a particular place or situation: if anyone wants out, there’s the door
More example sentences
  • Rosa said that although she does not want to drop the charges, she cannot handle the pressures of the situation anymore and wants out of the Army.
  • Like Dillon, he wants out of his current situation.
  • Never thrusting himself upon the crowd, but quietly allowing people to find him, he had a confidence in his own ability to judge who and what he wants out of every situation.
2 [no object] chiefly archaic Lack or be short of something desirable or essential: you shall want for nothing while you are with me
2.1 [with object] (Chiefly used in expressions of time) be short of or lack (a specified amount or thing): it wanted twenty minutes to midnight it wants a few minutes of five o’clock
lack, be without, have need of, be devoid of, be bereft of, be missing


1chiefly archaic A lack or deficiency of something: Victorian houses which are in want of repair it won’t be through want of trying
More example sentences
  • Men, he claimed, are in want of youth, good skin and lustrous hair.
  • The broken roof tiles seen through the grilled door say the area is in want of care.
  • The story goes that the handsome prince, in want of a wife, invited all the girls in the land to a ball.
lack, absence, nonexistence, unavailability;
dearth, deficiency, inadequacy, insufficiency, paucity, shortage, scarcity, deficit
1.1The state of being poor and in need of essentials; poverty: freedom from want
More example sentences
  • What Ireland and our Bertie should align itself and us to is not a war on terror but a war on want.
need, neediness, austerity, privation, deprivation, poverty, impoverishment, penury, destitution;
famine, drought
2A desire for something: the expression of our wants and desires
More example sentences
  • It is a great place to acquire and accessorize all your wants and desires - a great place to shop till you drop.
  • We may all have different ideas of how to get to that place, but in the end we have the same wants and needs and desires.
  • We are taught and indoctrinated into pursuing our own wants and desires, often at the expense of others.
wish, desire, demand, longing, yearning, fancy, craving, hankering;
need, requirement
informal yen


for want of

Because of a lack of (something): for want of a better location we ate our picnic lunch in the cemetery
More example sentences
  • His torment in front of goal was agonisingly extended but not for lack of trying or for want of bravery.
  • Part of our community has been shut down and for want of what?
  • Back then he was scared of failure, scared he would go bankrupt for want of 30 quid to pay the gas bill.


Middle English: the noun from Old Norse vant, neuter of vanr 'lacking'; the verb from Old Norse vanta 'be lacking.' The original notion of “lack” was early extended to “need,” and from this developed the sense 'desire'.

Words that rhyme with want

Comte, conte, font, fount, pont, quant, Vermont

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: want

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