Definitions

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

  • adj. Not to be dispensed with; essential.
  • adj. Obligatory; unavoidable: the routine but indispensable ceremonies of state.
  • n. One that is indispensable.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Not dispensable; impossible to be omitted, remitted, or spared; absolutely necessary or requisite.
  • adj. Not admitting dispensation; not subject to release or exemption.
  • adj. Unavoidable; inevitable.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Not to be set aside, evaded, or escaped; inevitable.
  • Not to be dispensed with; not to be omitted or spared; absolutely necessary or requisite.
  • Not permissible by dispensation or license; incapable of being legalized.
  • n. An indispensable person or thing.
  • n. Specifically, trousers.
  • n. A bag or pocket, frequently of silk and much decorated, worn by women in the first years of the nineteenth century, on the outside of the gown, instead of inside, as an ordinary pocket would be.

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

  • adj. absolutely necessary; vitally necessary
  • adj. not to be dispensed with; essential
  • adj. unavoidable

Etymologies

From Medieval Latin indispensabilis, corresponding to in- +‎ dispensable. Compare French indispensable. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The importance of The Living Age to every American reader, as the only satisfactorily fresh and ~COMPLETE~ compilation of an indispensable current literature, -- _indispensable_ because it embraces the productions of

    The Nursery, No. 109, January, 1876, Vol. XIX. A Monthly Magazine for Youngest Readers

  • The measure, which he described as indispensable to implement reforms more effectively, is Medvedev's first major proposal to amend the Russian Constitution.

    GlobalSecurity.org

  • He expressed his great dread of her catching cold, and having a relapse in consequence; but she firmly replied, that she never feared any evil when she was performing a sacred religious duty; that God was too wise and too good to permit one of his creatures to suffer, when in the act of obeying his commands; and she urged so many pious reasons to shew the necessity of her not delaying to perform what she termed her indispensable duty, that my father silently, but very reluctantly, submitted to her decision.

    Memoirs of Henry Hunt, Esq. — Volume 1

  • One feature of Opera I find indispensable is "keyword searching" - type a keyword or letter followed by a phrase in the address bar, and it will search for it. ie: "w bacon" searches wikipedia for bacon, "z bacon" searches amazon, etc.

    Which Browser Would You Marry? » E-Mail

  • Worse still is to hear them described as the indispensable choices for these positions … In any case, what is really needed in the job right now is a heavyweight to sell some big ideas.

    Will Obama Follow Lincoln's Example?

  • Worse still is to hear them described as the indispensable choices for these positions ...

    Danny Schechter: Will Obama Follow Lincoln's Example?

  • Worse still is to hear them described as the indispensable choices for these positions.

    Serve Republicans For Breakfast, Don't Take Them To Dinner

  • Among their consequences are the liberal mind’s relentless efforts to misrepresent human nature and to deny certain indispensable requirements for human relating.

    Sound Politics: The Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives

  • When Charles Degault first left power in the 1950's, someone called indispensable and he made an interesting comment.

    CNN Transcript Sep 30, 2001

  • As a transatlantic community sharing a common destiny, as a platform for joint Western policy and as an instrument for the prevention of war, NATO will remain indispensable for as far ahead as I can see.

    The Atlantic Alliance in the 1990's

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