Meaning of “unnecessary” in the English Dictionary

"unnecessary" in British English

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uk /ʌnˈnes.ə.ser.i/ us /ʌnˈnes.ə.ser.i/

B1 not needed or wanted, or more than is needed or wanted:

I thought a lot of the violence in the movie was totally unnecessary.
The idea is to kill the animal as quickly as possible without causing unnecessary suffering.

An offensive remark or action that is unnecessary could have been avoided:

He just humiliated her in front of everyone - it was so unnecessary.

More examples

  • This new computer system is completely unnecessary and a misuse of taxpayers' money.
  • She made one or two nasty remarks about their house which I thought was a bit unnecessary.
  • There is still some hope that the economic blockade will work and make military intervention unnecessary.
  • She brought round a bunch of flowers to thank me, but it was totally unnecessary.
  • We need to save money and cut out all unnecessary expenses.
adverb uk /ʌnˈnes.ə.sər.əl.i/ /ʌnˌnes.əˈser.əl.i/ us /ʌnˌnes.əˈser.əl.i. ʌnˈnes.ə.ser.əl.i/


We don't want to alarm people unnecessarily, but they should be aware of potential dangers.

(Definition of “unnecessary” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"unnecessary" in American English

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us /ʌnˈnes·əˌseər·i/

not needed or wanted, or more than is needed or wanted:

unnecessary expenses
The key to successful investing is to avoid taking unnecessary risks.
adverb us /ʌnˌnes·əˈser·ə·li/

I thought his explanation was unnecessarily complex.

(Definition of “unnecessary” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)