Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English nedes (of necessity, necessarily; inevitably, unavoidably) [and other forms],[1] from Old English nēdes, nīedes (of necessity; not willingly), originally the genitive form of nīed (necessity, need; distress), from nīed + -es (suffix forming adverbs from nouns). Nīed is ultimately derived from Proto-Indo-European *naut- (misfortune, torment), from *nāw- (corpse; the dead).

The English word is equivalent to need +‎ -'s (possessive marker) and hence to need +‎ -s (suffix forming adverbs).[2]


needs (not comparable)

  1. (archaic) Either directly or indirectly preceded or followed by an auxiliary verb, often must: of necessity or need; necessarily, indispensably.
    • 1584, Iaspar Loarte [i.e., Gaspart Loarte], “Certaine General Aduertissementes Necessary for suche as Minde to Serue God Sincerely”, in James Sancer [pseudonym; Stephen Brinkley], transl., The Exercise of a Christian Life. [], [Rouen: Robert Person’s Press], OCLC 1180793029, pages 10–11:
      As touching corporal puniſhments and penance, as faſting, diſciplin, hare cloth and other chaſtiſements, it behoueth thee herein to vſe good diſcretiõ, taking ſuch as help to repreſſe the aſſaults and temptations of the fleſh, and leuing others that may be hurtful, not yeelding herein to the heats, which ſome nouices are vvont to haue in their beginning, who thorough indiſcrete mortifying, and dompting of their fleſhe, fal into ſome ſuche infirmitie, as aftervvardes they muſt needes pamper and cheriſhe it to much.
    • 1610–1611, William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene ii], page 2, column 2:
      To haue no Schreene between this part he plaid, / And him he plaid it for, he needes will be / Abſolute Millaine, []
    • 1611, Thomas Coryate [i.e., Thomas Coryat], “My Obseruations of the Most Glorious, Peerelesse, and Mayden Citie of Venice: []”, in Coryats Crudities Hastily Gobled Vp in Five Moneths Trauells [], London: [] W[illiam] S[tansby for the author], OCLC 702319809:
      For they both ſay and beleeue that this picture hath ſo great vertue, as alſo that of Padua, whereof I haue before ſpoken, that whenſoeuer it is carried abroad in a ſolemne proceſſion in the time of a great drougth, it will cauſe raine to deſcend from heauen either before it is brought backe into the Church, or very ſhortly after. [] I cannot be induced to attribute ſo much to the vertue of a picture, as the Venetians do, except I had ſeene ſome notable miracle wrought by the ſame. For it brought no drops at all with it: onely about two dayes after it rained (I muſt needes confeſſe) amaine. But I hope they are not ſo ſuperſtitious to aſcribe that to the vertue of the picture.
    • 1625, James Ussher, “Of Traditions”, in An Ansvver to a Challenge Made by a Iesuite in Ireland. [], London: [] Humphrey Lownes] for the Society of Stationers, OCLC 228715552; republished in C[harles] R[ichard] Elrington, editor, The Whole Works of the Most Rev. James Ussher, D.D. Lord Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of All Ireland, volume III, Dublin: Hodges & Smith; London: Whittaker & Co., [1831], OCLC 49005379, page 41:
      To begin therefore with Traditions, which is your forlorn hope that in the first place we are to set upon: this must I needs tell you before we begin, that you much mistake the matter, if you think that traditions of all sorts promiscuously are struck at by our religion.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book IV”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554, lines 411–414:
      Sole partner and ſole part of all theſe joyes, / Dearer thy ſelf then all; needs muſt the Power / That made us, and for us this ample World / Be infinitly good, []
    • 1768, Mr. Yorick [pseudonym; Laurence Sterne], “The Passport. Versailles.”, in A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, volume II, London: [] T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, [], OCLC 61680753, page 62:
      ―And the maſter of my hotel, ſaid I, as I concluded it, will needs have it, Monſieur le Count, that I ſhall be ſent to the Baſtile— []
    • 1782, William Cowper, “The Diverting History of John Gilpin, []”, in The Task, a Poem, [], London: [] J[oseph] Johnson; [], published 1785, OCLC 228757725, page 349:
      So ſtooping down, as needs he muſt / Who cannot ſit upright, / He graſp'd the mane with both his hands / And eke with all his might.
    • 1822 May 21, Geoffrey Crayon [pseudonym; Washington Irving], “The Wedding”, in Bracebridge Hall, or The Humourists. A Medley. [], volume II, New York, N.Y.: [] C. S. Van Winkle, [], OCLC 1141021983, page 339:
      The Squire must needs have something of the old ceremonies observed on the occasion; so, at the gate of the church-yard, several little girls of the village, dressed in white, were in readiness with baskets of flowers, which they strewed before the bride, []
    • 1828 May 15, [Walter Scott], chapter VII, in Chronicles of the Canongate. Second Series. [] (The Fair Maid of Perth), volume III, Edinburgh: [] [Ballantyne and Co.] for Cadell and Co.; London: Simpkin and Marshall, OCLC 17487293, page 179:
      Vulcan was a smith as well as Harry Wynd; he would needs wed Venus, and our Chronicles tell us what came of it.
    • 1882, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Promise of May”, in Locksley Hall Sixty Years After etc., London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 1886, OCLC 19600983, Act II, page 119:
      O my God, if man be only / A willy-nilly current of sensations— / Reaction needs must follow revel—yet— / Why feel remorse, he, knowing that he must have / Moved in the iron grooves of Destiny?
    • 1886 May – 1887 April, Thomas Hardy, chapter III, in The Woodlanders [], volume I, London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 1887, OCLC 17926498, page 48:
      ["]Why, Marty—whatever has happened to your head? Lord, it has shrunk to nothing—it looks like an apple upon a gate-post!" / Her heart swelled and she could not speak. At length she managed to groan, looking on the ground, "I've made myself ugly—and hateful—that's what I've done!" / "No, no," he answered, "You've only cut your hair—I see now." / "Then why must you needs say that about apples and gate-posts?"
    • 1896, A[lfred] E[dward] Housman, “[Poem] XXV”, in A Shropshire Lad, New York, N.Y.: John Lane Company, The Bodley Head, published 1906, OCLC 863109715, stanza 1, page 36:
      The time of year a twelvemonth past, / When Fred and I would meet, / We needs must jangle, till at last / We fought and I was beat.
    • 1908 October, Kenneth Grahame, “Dulce Domum”, in The Wind in the Willows, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, OCLC 305520, page 110:
      His spirits finally quite restored, he must needs go and caress his possessions, and take a lamp and show off their points to his visitor and expiate on them, quite forgetful of the supper they both so much needed; []
    • 1956, Gerald Durrell, “The Talking Flowers”, in My Family and Other Animals, Harmondsworth, Middlesex [London]: Penguin Books, published 1959 (1974 printing), OCLC 3789377, page 221:
      I doubt we can make it on foot, laden as we are. Dear me! I think we had better have a cab. An extravagance, of course, but needs must where the devil drives, eh?
Alternative formsEdit
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

From need +‎ -s.



  1. plural of need

Etymology 3Edit

From need +‎ -s.



  1. Third-person singular simple present indicative form of need
Usage notesEdit
  • When need is used as a modal verb, no -s is added in the third-person singular, just as no -s is added to the other modal verbs, for example “she need not [instead of needs not] go to school today”.


  1. ^ nẹ̄des, adv.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ Compare “needs, adv.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2021; “needs, adv.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.