Necessity is the mother of invention

What does ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ mean?

You often hear people use that saying that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ but don’t necessarily know what it means.

Well think about it for a minute. Let’s break up the phrase into different parts to make it more understandable.


What does necessity mean? Well the simplest meaning of necessity is to think of the word ‘necessary’ (it sounds a lot like necessity doesn’t it? That’s because they both have the same root). When you say that A is necessary for B to happen, it means that B cannot happen without A happening. For example water is necessary for plants to survive.

Necessity is not too different. It means that something is indispensable or important in a particular situation or circumstance. Like when someone says ‘Education is a necessity for a successful society’, they mean that without education the society would not be successful without education.


A mother gives birth to a child. That much is obvious. So using the word ‘mother’ in a metaphorical sense means giving birth to, creating, or making something where it did not exist before.

So now you know what ‘necessity’ and ‘mother’ means in the context we have been talking about. So how do we apply it to ‘necessity is the mother of invention’?

Pretty easily. You might even be able to work it out by yourself by now.

It’s obvious that something is invented as a result of a need that hasn’t yet been fulfilled. For example mobile telephones were invented to meet the need of people communicating while they are out and about. In other words there was a necessity for people to communicate when they were not at home. It was necessary for people to have a mobile phone so that they could communicate wherever they were.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Which brings us to the final piece in the puzzle. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ means that the necessity for something to occur makes it very likely that something will be invented to meet that need. In other words the necessity for something gives birth to an invention. Necessity is the mother of invention!