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Need vs. Want: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 18, 2023
Need is a requirement for survival; want is a desire or wish.

Key Differences

Need pertains to the basic requirements necessary for living or achieving a goal. Without these essentials, there may be adverse effects or failures. On the other hand, want represents desires or cravings, which may be influenced by personal preferences or societal factors.
While needs often have a foundation in biological or psychological imperatives, wants are driven by individual tastes, emotions, and external influences.
Meeting a need often results in the maintenance of health, safety, or well-being. Addressing a want, while providing pleasure or satisfaction, is not always crucial for well-being.
For instance, in terms of nutrition, humans need basic nutrients to function and maintain health. In contrast, someone might want a specific brand of chocolate, but it isn't essential for survival.
The line between need and want can sometimes blur, especially in modern consumer-driven societies, but understanding the distinction can lead to more informed decisions.

Comparison Chart


A requirement for survival or goal achievement.
A desire or wish.


Often biological or psychological.
Personal preferences or societal influences.

Impact of not meeting

Adverse effects or failure.
Lack of pleasure or satisfaction.

Role in decision-making

Fundamental priority.
Often secondary or luxury.

Emotional connection

Often connected to urgency or necessity.
More linked to desires and tastes.

Need and Want Definitions


Need refers to a necessity or obligation.
You need to eat to survive.


Want means to desire something.
I want a slice of pie.


Need denotes a lack of something wanted or deemed necessary.
There's a need for affordable housing in the city.


Want can refer to a lack or deficiency of something.
There's a want of common sense in that decision.


Need is something essential for a particular purpose.
She has the need for speed in her racing career.


Want denotes a wish or demand for something.
Kids always have a list of wants for their birthdays.


Need can describe a condition requiring relief or supply.
There's a dire need for blood donors.


Want implies a strong desire for something.
She wants to succeed in her career.


Need means being in want.
He is in need of a new pair of shoes.


Want describes being in a state of destitution.
Families in want rely on charity.


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.


To have a strong feeling to have (something); wish (to possess or do something); desire greatly
She wants a glass of water. They want to leave.


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).


To desire (someone to do something)
I want you to clean your room.


Is water a need or a want?

Water is a fundamental need for human survival.

Is a need always essential?

Generally, needs are considered basic and essential.

Does culture influence our wants?

Yes, societal and cultural factors often shape our desires.

What is a want?

A personal desire or wish.

Can wants become needs?

In certain contexts, yes; for example, societal norms can influence perceptions.

What is a need?

A requirement essential for survival or achieving a goal.

Is a luxury car a need or a want?

Typically, it's a want, unless it's essential for a specific purpose.

Can something be both a need and a want?

Yes, like needing a car for transportation but wanting a specific brand.

Is need stronger than want in making decisions?

Generally, needs take precedence, but context can influence this.

Is clothing a need or a want?

Basic clothing is a need, but specific styles or brands might be wants.

How can one differentiate between needs and wants while budgeting?

By categorizing expenses into essentials and non-essentials.

Do companies often market wants as needs?

Yes, it's a common marketing strategy to elevate the perceived value of a product.

Do animals have needs and wants?

Yes, animals have basic needs for survival and can display preferences (wants).

Can a hobby be a need?

If it's essential for mental well-being or identity, it might be considered a need.

Why is it important to distinguish between needs and wants?

To make informed decisions, prioritize, and manage resources effectively.

Can needs change over time?

Yes, based on circumstances, age, health, and other factors.

Is education a need or a want?

Basic education is often seen as a need, but higher or specialized education might be categorized as a want depending on context.

Do all humans share the same basic needs?

Yes, like food, water, shelter, but specific needs can vary.

Why do we often confuse needs with wants?

Societal pressures, advertising, and personal desires can blur the lines.

Can unmet wants impact mental well-being?

Yes, consistently unmet wants can lead to feelings of inadequacy or unhappiness.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
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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