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Need vs. Necessity: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 13, 2023
'Need' refers to a requirement for something essential or very important, while 'necessity' is the state or fact of being required or indispensable.

Key Differences

A need is a personal or situational requirement for something essential, like needing food for survival, whereas a necessity is more about the indispensable nature of something, as in water being a necessity for life.
Needs can vary based on individual circumstances or desires, like needing a good book for entertainment, while necessities are often universal and fundamental, such as the necessity of shelter for protection.
The concept of need can be subjective and influenced by personal preferences and situations. In contrast, necessity is more objective, often tied to basic human survival or societal functioning.
Needs can change over time or due to circumstances, like needing more rest during illness. Necessities, however, are consistent requirements, critical for maintaining life or stability, like the necessity for a stable environment.
In psychology, needs can encompass emotional and psychological aspects, such as the need for love or belonging. Necessities, however, are typically associated with physical or practical requirements essential for living.

Comparison Chart


A requirement for something essential or important
The state or fact of being required or indispensable


Can vary based on personal circumstances or desires
Often universal and fundamental


More subjective, influenced by personal preferences
More objective, tied to basic survival or societal needs

Change over Time

Can change with circumstances
Consistently critical for living or stability


Can include emotional and psychological aspects
Typically focuses on physical or practical requirements

Need and Necessity Definitions


A requirement for something essential.
She felt the need to eat healthier.


A situation enforcing a particular course of action.
Necessity compelled her to find a second job.


A situation calling for immediate action.
The flood victims are in dire need of aid.


The fact of being required or indispensable.
Clean water is a basic necessity of life.


An expression of necessity or obligation.
There's a need to improve security.


An indispensable thing.
A good education is a necessity for success.


A state of requiring assistance.
Small businesses are in need of financial support.


Essential character; inevitability.
In business, adaptation is a necessity.


A lack of something desirable or useful.
He has a need for constant approval.


The condition of being unavoidable.
In a crisis, tough decisions become a necessity.


A condition or situation in which something must be supplied in order for a certain condition to be maintained or a desired state to be achieved
Crops in need of water.
A child's need for affection.


The condition or quality of being necessary.


Something required or wanted; a requisite
"Those of us who led the charge for these women's issues ... shared a common vision in the needs of women" (Olympia Snowe).


Something necessary
The necessities of life include food, clothing, and shelter.


Is necessity always related to survival?

Primarily, yes. Necessity often pertains to things essential for survival or fundamental functioning.

How does culture influence need?

Cultural values and norms can significantly influence what individuals perceive as needs.

Can necessity be subjective?

While more objective, some aspects of necessity can be influenced by cultural or societal contexts.

What is a basic need?

A basic need is something essential for survival, like food, water, and shelter.

Can economic status affect needs?

Yes, economic status can influence the range and nature of an individual's needs.

Are needs constant throughout life?

Needs can evolve and change throughout an individual's life based on age, situation, and personal growth.

What does necessity mean in legal terms?

In legal terms, necessity refers to a situation where a certain action is unavoidable under the circumstances.

How does one determine what is a necessity?

A necessity is determined by its indispensability for survival, health, or basic functioning.

Can needs be non-physical?

Yes, needs can include psychological and emotional requirements, like the need for love or achievement.

Are all human needs universal?

Some basic needs are universal, but others can vary based on individual differences and circumstances.

How are needs expressed in behavior?

Needs often drive behavior, leading individuals to seek fulfillment of those needs.

Can needs be created or induced?

Yes, marketing and societal influences can create or amplify perceived needs.

How does individual perception affect the understanding of needs and necessities?

Individual perception, shaped by personal experiences and cultural background, significantly affects how one understands and prioritizes needs and necessities.

How does poverty impact the perception of necessity?

Poverty can narrow the perception of necessity to focus primarily on survival and basic needs.

Is education a need or a necessity?

Education can be seen as both a need and a necessity, depending on the context and societal values.

Does technology create new needs?

Yes, technological advancements can lead to the development of new needs and dependencies.

Can needs and necessities overlap?

Yes, some needs, like the need for food, are also necessities.

Can societal changes redefine necessities?

Yes, societal changes can lead to a reevaluation of what is considered a necessity.

How do needs affect decision-making?

Needs often influence priorities and guide decision-making processes.

How do emergencies affect necessities?

Emergencies can shift focus onto immediate necessities for survival and safety.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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