Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Necessary; required. See Synonyms at indispensable.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Needed; necessary; mandatory; requisite; indispensible.
  • n. Anything necessary or requisite.
  • n. Ready money; wherewithal.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Full of need; in need or want; needy; distressing.
  • adj. Necessary for supply or relief; requisite.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Having or exhibiting need or distress; needy; necessitous.
  • Necessary; requisite.
  • Synonyms Requisite, etc. (see necessary), indispensable.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. necessary for relief or supply

Etymologies

From Middle English needeful, nedeful, equivalent to need +‎ -ful. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It meant they were just sick of this constant idea that the one thing needful is to put more people in the West -- and more people, and yet more people.

    The Wheat Situation

  • Methinks it must have been a precursive vapour of the madness that afterwards infolded me, for I know well that there is not one called Death, that he is but a word needful to the weakness of human thought and the poverty of human speech; that he is a no-being, and but a change from that which is.

    Thomas Wingfold, Curate V3

  • The one thing needful is certainly meant of that which Mary made her choice -- sitting at Christ's feet, to hear his word.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume V (Matthew to John)

  • Mary was a good Christian and still earnestly seeking the one thing needful, which is full salvation, or holiness of heart and life.

    The Theology of Holiness

  • Then to make the sight perfect, these things are needful, that is to wit, the cause efficient, the limb of the eye convenient to the thing that shall be seen, the air that bringeth the likeness to the eye, and taking heed, and easy moving.

    Mediaeval Lore from Bartholomew Anglicus

  • Now a common-place person would have been satisfied with the recommendation of the medical man, who looks but to the one thing needful, which is a sufficient and wholesome supply of nourishment for the child; but Mr Easy was a philosopher, and had latterly taken to craniology, and he descanted very learnedly with the Doctor upon the effect of his only son obtaining his nutriment from an unknown source.

    Mr. Midshipman Easy

  • Now a commonplace person would have been satisfied with the recommendation of the medical man, who looks but to the one thing needful, which is a sufficient and wholesome supply of nourishment for the child; but Mr Easy was a philosopher, and had latterly taken to craniology, and he descanted very learnedly with the doctor upon the effect of his only son obtaining his nutriment from an unknown source.

    Mr. Midshipman Easy

  • "P.S. No name needful, for you will not be astray about the hand."

    Tales and Novels — Volume 04

  • Ye have large and airy apprehensions of temporal things, which ye call needful, and ye cannot behold eternal things.

    The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

  • And, by the way, there is no reason to believe that it was "needful" for Congress to bar slavery in the territories, unless, of course, one accepts John Marshall's evisceration of the word "necessary" in McCulloch.

    Balkinization

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Comments

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  • My Indian friends often say, "do the needful," meaning "do what needs to be done." I just like the way it sounds.

    July 22, 2009