Definition of want in English:



  • 1[with object] Have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for.

    ‘I want an apple’
    [with infinitive] ‘we want to go to the beach’
    [with object and infinitive] ‘she wanted me to go to her room’
    [no object] ‘I'll give you a lift into town if you want’
    • ‘He takes time to walk around the set with his cameraman before the actors arrive and that he uses this time to decide how he wants the scene to look.’
    • ‘But the most improbable event occurs when he decides he wants a love life and asks to be given a human appearance.’
    • ‘Until Frankie decides he wants it all, including the lady- and there'll be no witnesses.’
    • ‘Pakistan spurned the vote because it wants a plebiscite to decide rule between India and itself.’
    • ‘Feel the heat of desire, forget wanting a new car.’
    • ‘Five years ago, when manager of a Hull nursing home, she decided she wanted a career in the hospitality industry.’
    • ‘Its members want action and their desire is motivated by an understanding of the facts about bigotry.’
    • ‘Pamela found herself not wanting the attention, wishing she was away from Dewhurst Manor long enough to collect her wits.’
    • ‘But she became exasperated by the saga and decided she wanted her cash back.’
    • ‘You'll have to decide if you want that kind of photo on the front page of your newspaper.’
    • ‘So then put the pros and cons up for the public to decide if they want fluoride in their water.’
    • ‘So when it came to choosing her object of desire, she wanted an attractive object with a practical side.’
    • ‘This year, when a Eurocamp holiday was offered to me, we decided we wanted sunshine pretty well guaranteed.’
    • ‘He wants my employer to decide where outside the network I am to be permitted to connect the Palm.’
    • ‘I sit at home at night thinking about them, wanting them, desiring them.’
    • ‘There's national encouragement to meet that commitment, but it's for each parish to decide if it wants a formal scheme.’
    • ‘It is now formulating its desires of where it wants its marine reserves to be, then the industry can have what is left.’
    • ‘He wants the community to decide in a referendum at the September 2003 council elections.’
    • ‘She decides she wants hypnotherapy to find out why she causes so many accidents.’
    • ‘He takes a risk because he thinks he can get away with it because the facts may well turn out to support his editor's desire and he wants a quiet life and to be obliging.’
    desire, wish for, hope for, fancy, have a fancy for, take a fancy to, have an inclination for, care for, like, set one's heart on
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    1. 1.1Wish to consult or speak to (someone)
      ‘Tony wants me in the studio’
      • ‘I don't have time to read all the things I'd have to read for everyone else out there who also wants me to read their story or poem, if I said yes.’
      • ‘She was wanting me to call her and speak with her last night, after not having heard from her for months and months, but I just couldn't be bothered doing that.’
      • ‘He wants to speak to me tomorrow, or rather, as he put it, he wants me to speak to him.’
      • ‘The moderator was flagging me down because he wanted me to speak for a couple of minutes.’
      • ‘But she wants her to know that the once voiceless children have spoken.’
      • ‘I want every member who wants to speak to be able to have his or her say, and to be heard.’
      • ‘Students care a lot about their future and they want someone powerful to speak to them.’
      • ‘A friend told me that she had spoken to a Spiritualist Healer about me and he wanted me to go and see him.’
      • ‘I don't want to speak for X. I don't know if he wants me to tell people about the stuff he did.’
      • ‘Henshaw wants his staff to speak to one another - an eccentric idea that surely cannot catch on.’
    2. 1.2(of the police) desire to question or apprehend (a suspected criminal)
      ‘he is wanted by the police in connection with an arms theft’
      • ‘There are around 700 bail dodgers in Bolton who are wanted by police on outstanding warrants.’
      • ‘The four men pictured above are urgently wanted to assist the police in their enquiries.’
      • ‘Yosic was wanted by Interpol for murders and drug dealing in the Netherlands and Germany.’
      • ‘Egan is only wanted for questioning at the moment, and is not necessarily a suspect in the bombing.’
      • ‘He was named as wanted by Bedfordshire Police in 1998 in connection with the murder of Mr Farrow.’
      • ‘The crane driver fled the scene after the accident and is wanted for questioning.’
      • ‘She is known to have had a relationship with a homeless man who was wanted by police in connection with a stolen credit card.’
      • ‘The police had wanted him to testify, but Mr. M. said that he did not want to get involved.’
      • ‘Neighbours were woken up by police officers who wanted to know where Mrs Wiggins and their two children were.’
      • ‘Seven men have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burglary, and another is wanted by police.’
    3. 1.3Desire (someone) sexually.
      ‘I've wanted you since the first moment I saw you’
      • ‘I've always tried to please him with the clothes I buy but him not wanting me sexually I find very hurtful.’
      • ‘So Kathy is reduced to tears of frustration as she waits to see whether Anna wants her as a sexual partner.’
    4. 1.4British informal [with present participle](of a thing) require to be attended to in a specified way.
      ‘the wheel wants greasing’
      • ‘The whole lot wants digging up and replacing with a small roundabout like it should have been since day one.’
      need, be in need of, stand in need of, require, demand, cry out for
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    5. 1.5informal [with infinitive]Ought, should, or need to do something.
      ‘you don't want to believe everything you hear’
      • ‘The tourism board believes otherwise and wants to change this perception.’
      • ‘Clearly, Orr wants to believe that money and material advantage explain all.’
      • ‘Tell me why you think it's a fantastic place, because I really want to believe it is.’
      • ‘I want to make them believe more in themselves and then they can do something with their lives.’
      • ‘He also believes that Moscow wants to use the threat of unleashing ethnic conflict in the Crimea as an instrument to keep Ukraine in line.’
      • ‘It is believed he also wants to secure powers over broadcasting for Holyrood.’
      • ‘I think that the reason that the story has been so tenacious is that we want to believe that it's true.’
      • ‘No one wants to believe a teacher could do this to children; every clue is misread or ignored.’
      • ‘It is up to each and every individual to make a choice about what he/she wants to believe in.’
      • ‘Nick wants to believe his father, a numbers runner, did not run away, but was murdered.’
      • ‘I want to believe that I am empowered with the ability to exercise my responsibilities.’
      • ‘I think Morpurgo really wants to believe in Christopher, but I didn't really accept him.’
      • ‘I am of the circle that believes if one wants to do that, it is their prerogative.’
      • ‘She wants to believe her mother died peacefully from her illness, but now doesn't know.’
      • ‘I want to believe everything the marketing people tell me about whisky, and more besides.’
      • ‘Part of me is quite cynical but there's another part that wants to believe stuff like that.’
      • ‘I don't believe anyone wants to see their park carved up without being given a chance to have their say.’
      • ‘It's what he believes every leader who wants to make history is destined to do.’
      • ‘He had the kind of personality that made you want to believe everything he said, even if he said the sky was pink.’
      • ‘Like the lover let down on a thousand occasions already, we wanted to believe that this time everything would be all right.’
      should, ought, need, must
      View synonyms
    6. 1.6North American informal [no object]Desire to be in or out of a particular place or situation.
      ‘if anyone wants out, there's the door’
      • ‘It supports the sense that the Commission wants out.’
      • ‘I know what he wants from certain situations and what he wants out of a team.’
      • ‘Never thrusting himself upon the crowd, but quietly allowing people to find him, he had a confidence in his own ability to judge who and what he wants out of every situation.’
      • ‘Anyone else wants in on a very casual group comic blog, with no real guidelines and no minimum posting requirements, just let me know.’
      • ‘Tabloids have reported that she didn't want children and that's why Brad wanted out.’
      • ‘My wife dropped the bomb on me last April - didn't want to work on fixing the marriage, just wanted out.’
      • ‘So, for starters, we can place anyone who wants into an elite fighting unit, but does not meet the vision requirements, into a difficult training program.’
      • ‘For those wanting in on the action, the group will be having both fall and spring auditions.’
      • ‘Like Dillon, he wants out of his current situation.’
      • ‘Rosa said that although she does not want to drop the charges, she cannot handle the pressures of the situation anymore and wants out of the Army.’
      • ‘He was all set to write about his experiences on the jury, and now he wants out of the deal.’
      • ‘It combines faith, commune, all the key elements of magick, in a simple system that it available to anyone who wants in on it.’
      • ‘I smiled slightly, ‘The game is afoot: anyone wants out, now's the time to say it.’’
      • ‘The last poster is right about Democrats wanting in on it, too.’
      • ‘Clearly, this was a guy, with all the impending pressures, he wanted out of that marriage.’
      • ‘Jonera just wants out of Haiti as soon as possible.’
      • ‘If it was beating down on this guy that he wanted out on Monday, what's that say about what's going on in there?’
      • ‘You know, he wanted out of that quicker than these people got married on Fox wanted out of that marriage.’
      • ‘He wants out of the hypocrisy of his ordination, but he has no place to go.’
      • ‘One youngster said the only thing he wanted out of school was himself.’
  • 2archaic [no object] Lack or be short of something desirable or essential.

    ‘you shall want for nothing while you are with me’
    1. 2.1[with object](chiefly used in expressions of time) be short of or lack (a specified amount or thing)
      ‘it wanted twenty minutes to midnight’
      ‘it wants a few minutes of five o'clock’


  • 1archaic A lack or deficiency of something.

    ‘Victorian houses which are in want of repair’
    ‘it won't be through want of trying’
    • ‘I was never any good at anything in this department, though not for lack of interest or want of trying.’
    • ‘The story goes that the handsome prince, in want of a wife, invited all the girls in the land to a ball.’
    • ‘It wasn't for lack of want for friends that he had few, but for his place of residence.’
    • ‘The broken roof tiles seen through the grilled door say the area is in want of care.’
    • ‘Men, he claimed, are in want of youth, good skin and lustrous hair.’
    lack, absence, non-existence, unavailability
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    1. 1.1The state of being poor and in need of essentials; poverty.
      ‘freedom from want’
      • ‘What Ireland and our Bertie should align itself and us to is not a war on terror but a war on want.’
      need, neediness, austerity, privation, deprivation, poverty, impoverishment, impecuniousness, impecuniosity, pennilessness, pauperism, penury, destitution, famine, drought, indigence
      View synonyms
  • 2A desire for something.

    ‘the expression of our wants and desires’
    • ‘He gave her everything she wanted and fulfilled his own wants, needs and desire.’
    • ‘Choice within the National Health Service is treated like a one sided demand that our wants should be satisfied by somebody else.’
    • ‘It is time for us to come together and communicate our common wants, needs, desires and goals.’
    • ‘It is above and beyond ourselves, and as such it unites the world in the grand scheme of things, even as it is birthed in its own desires and needs and wants.’
    • ‘We are taught and indoctrinated into pursuing our own wants and desires, often at the expense of others.’
    • ‘So, my experience, wants and desires are way past quick and easy line drawings of charts.’
    • ‘We may all have different ideas of how to get to that place, but in the end we have the same wants and needs and desires.’
    • ‘No test in the world was ever designed to take the place of your own wants and desires.’
    • ‘Such a metaphor as the menu gives couples a vehicle for exploring their wants and desires.’
    • ‘It is a great place to acquire and accessorize all your wants and desires - a great place to shop till you drop.’
    • ‘To experience wants, desires, and preferences is a normal part of the human condition.’
    • ‘He pledged to put aside his wants and desires and to pursue what God wanted for his life.’
    • ‘Take responsibility yourself, communicate your needs, wants and desires to your partner.’
    • ‘After too long a period of time, we as human beings will begin to seek ways to meet our needs, wants and desires much closer to home.’
    • ‘Of course there are other fine makers who could have met my wants but the desire was gone.’
    • ‘You need to be true to yourself, and open about your wants and desires, while allowing him to do the same.’
    • ‘The course of events that puts you there happens fast and without regard to your wants and desires.’
    • ‘That kind of negligence shows clear contempt for our generation's wants and needs.’
    • ‘The temperament becomes more unilateral, unaffected by the wants and desires of others.’
    • ‘It is an objective expression of subjective judgments concerning human wants, now and in the future.’
    wish, desire, demand, longing, yearning, fancy, craving, hankering
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  • for want of

    • Because of a lack of (something)

      ‘for want of a better location we ate our picnic lunch in the cemetery’
      • ‘One thing is for sure, it won't be for want of trying and it won't be for lack of talent.’
      • ‘I walk for want of a place, I speak for want of knowledge, proof that I am not yet dead.’
      • ‘Those hopes remain to be fulfilled for very many people, but, if he failed, it was not for want of trying.’
      • ‘It was in attack that Waterford lost this game, not for want of effort but for steadiness in finishing.’
      • ‘Back then he was scared of failure, scared he would go bankrupt for want of 30 quid to pay the gas bill.’
      • ‘His torment in front of goal was agonisingly extended but not for lack of trying or for want of bravery.’
      • ‘The big question, of course, is whether the winning sports presenter will be fair game, for want of a better phrase.’
      • ‘Several films in recent months have picked up this theme of randy retirement, for want of a better phrase.’
      • ‘Film music is gradually losing its appeal for want of lyrical and musical quality, feels the singer.’
      • ‘Part of our community has been shut down and for want of what?’


Middle English: the noun from Old Norse vant, neuter of vanr lacking; the verb from Old Norse vanta be lacking. The original notion of “lack” was early extended to “need,” and from this developed the sense desire.