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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English needeful, nedeful, from Old English nēodful (necessary; earnest; zealous). Equivalent to need +‎ -ful. Cognate with Dutch noodvol, German notvoll.


  • IPA(key): /ˈniːdfəl/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: need‧ful


needful (comparative more needful, superlative most needful)

  1. Needed; necessary; mandatory; requisite; indispensable.
    Antonym: needless
    • 1719, “An ACT, Stating the due Aſſize of Bread”, in The Charter Granted by His Majeſty, King Charles the Second, to the Colony of Rhode-Iſland, and Providence-plantations in America[1], John Allen, page 59:
      And be it further Enacted by the Authority aforeſaid, That in every Town in the Colony, where Bread is Baken for Sale, there ſhall be Choſen one Clerk of the Market, or more, as each Town ſhall find needful, at their Annual Election of Town Officers, who ſhall duly be Engaged, to the faithful performance of ſaid Office, as other Town Officers are ; []
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, chapter 5, in Moonfleet, London, Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934:
      So I went to keep house with him at the Why Not? and my aunt sent down my bag of clothes, and would have made over to Elzevir the pittance that my father left for my keep, but he said it was not needful, and he would have none of it.
  2. (archaic) Needy; in need.
    • 1860, Union Society of Savannah, Minutes of the Union Society, page 114:
      [] where his active benevolence was ever found in cheerful co-operation for the cause of the humble & needful orphan []

Derived terms[edit]


needful (plural needfuls)

  1. (slang) Ready money; wherewithal.
  2. (India, chiefly archaic in other dialects) Anything necessary or requisite.

Usage notes[edit]

Commonly found in phrases such as "kindly do the needful", which occurs commonly in Indian English but is held as archaic in other dialects. Global interactions between English speakers have to some extent led to these phrases being seen as stereotypical of Indian English and parodied by speakers of other dialects.

Derived terms[edit]