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


needful (comparative more needful, superlative most needful)

  1. Needed; necessary; mandatory; requisite; indispensible.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet Chapter 5
      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.


needful (plural needfuls)

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

Usage notes[edit]

Commonly found in phrases such as "do the needful" or "please do the needful", which occur commonly in Indian English but are held as archaic in other dialects, nonetheless being heard more and more by speakers of said dialects in their interactions with speakers of Indian English. This has to some extent led to these phrases being seen as stereotypical of Indian English and parodied by speakers of other dialects.

Derived terms[edit]