1. 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.
2. 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).
3. Necessity; obligation: There is no need for you to go.
4. A condition of poverty or misfortune: The family is in dire need.
v. need·ed, need·ing, needs
To be under the necessity of or the obligation to: They need not come. You needn't be concerned.
1. To have need of; require: The family needs money. We need to get some more paint.
2. To have an obligation (to do something): You need to clean up your room.
3. To be subject (to an action) by obligation: Bags need to be stowed underneath the seat in front of you.
4. To want to be subject to: We don't need another lecture on the subject.
1. To be in need or want.
2. To be necessary.
[Middle English nede, from Old English nēod, nēd, distress, necessity.]
Usage Note: Depending on the sense, the verb need behaves sometimes like an auxiliary verb (such as can or may) and sometimes like a main verb (such as want or try). When used as a main verb, need agrees with its subject, takes to before the verb following it, and combines with do in questions, negations, and certain other constructions: He needs to go. Does he need to go so soon? He doesn't need to go. When used as an auxiliary verb, need does not agree with its subject, does not take to before the verb following it, and does not combine with do: He needn't go. Need he go so soon? The auxiliary forms of need are used primarily in present-tense questions, negations, and conditional clauses. Unlike can and may, auxiliary need has no form for the past tense like could and might. · When need is used as the main verb, it can be followed by a present participle, as in The car needs washing, or by to be plus a past participle, as in The car needs to be washed. However, in some areas of the United States, especially western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, many speakers omit to be and use just the past participle form, as in The car needs washed. This use of need with past participles is more common in the British Isles, being particularly prevalent in Scotland.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.