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WANT - An Autantonym

Updated on December 14, 2012

What is “want”? We may not stop to define it, but we all know what it is to want, don’t we?

We may want to be some other place. We might want to be “somebody”. We may want self-improvement, from controlling our temper - to health, appearance, education, attitude and peace of mind. May want fame or fortune. We might want a fancy car or to sing in our own band, to tour the world, study in Paris, even to be a foreign missionary or an astronaut. We may want our loved ones to have what they most want. We may just want to turn back the hands of time.

There is no end to what might be wanted or how perpetually. Some experts define insatiable wants as neurotic needs. That is almost the definition of wants beyond the basics. And of course, it describes every living soul. Perhaps monks and people on their death beds escape wanting. We everyday mortals don’t.



Abraham Maslow defined a hierarchy of needs. Only the bottom tier of the pyramid has the real survival needs; everything above those basic life-supports is a want. Higher wants are not possible until the basic needs are fulfilled. Without basic needs taken care of, one’s entire attention is on filling them.

Let’s think about that hierarchy, beyond the basic needs or wants. Maslow calls them all needs, actutally. For this article and its clarity lets keep them separate.

"I'll Never Be Hungry Again"

We may even want to be free of "want" itself!

Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) declared so fiercely in “Gone With The Wind”, - “I will never be hungry again!” But a declaration such as that, though of filling a major need, when projected into the future, becomes more a want thant a need, for we cannot really need or satisfy it as a future event. Our real needs exist and are met (or denied) in present tense, right now and urgent. They may be ongoing but can only be filled in the present. To begin to forecast them removes them from that imperative immediacy.

The word “want” has meanings which are almost diametrically opposite. We want things; we are in want without things. It could be described as an auto-antonym. (May be spelled autantonym or contranym). This is a word with the same spelling that is also a word with the opposite meaning; in other words - a word with multiple meanings, one of which can be defined as the opposite of one of its other meanings. Confusing, yes?

Here's what the DICTIONARY says about “want”?

want |wänt; wônt|


1) have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for : I want an apple | we want to go to the beach | she wanted me to go to her room | I'll give you a lift into town if you want.

• wish to consult or speak to (someone) : Tony wants me in the studio.

• (be wanted) (of the police) : desire to question or apprehend (a suspected criminal) : he is wanted by the police in connection with an arms theft.

• desire sexually : I've wanted you since the first moment I saw you.

• require to be attended to in a specified way : the wheel wants greasing.

• informal ought, should, or need to do something : you don't want to believe everything you hear.

• (want in/into/out/away) informal desire to be in or out of a particular place or situation : if anyone wants out, there's the door.

2) lack or be short of something desirable or essential : you shall want for nothing while you are with me.

• be short of or lack (a specified amount or thing) : it wanted a few apples to make a bushel | it wants a few minutes of five o'clock.


1) a lack or deficiency of something : Victorian houses which are in want of repair | it won't be through want of trying.

• the state of being poor and in need of essentials; poverty : freedom from want.

2) a desire for something : the expression of our wants and desires.

Another feature of non-essential "wants" is their immediacy: wanting these things right NOW. It's the "instant gratification" trait which is disturbing throughout the generation.

My two elder sisters once discussed what they would want if they had lots of money. Harriet, said she’d want to be able to buy all the things she’d ever want. She craved the things money could buy.

Ruth said would want to be rich but she wouldn’t want any thing. She wanted the “security”, status and just knowing she had the money. She craved money for its own sake.

This is not an attempt to judge either kind, but to look at wanting in its many forms.

A recent TV ad for a well-known entertainer’s show has her saying, “I don’t want a 'thing'

. . . . Just give me money.”

So what do you want?

Is it a “want” or a “want”?

A recent ad on the back cover of a leading high-end magazine promotes WANT and asks seductively, “What do you want this holiday?” (Actually, I'd love that little sequined jacket - and the long fringed scarf is pretty cute, too!  So NOW!)

As he prays, you can see on the priest's face the anquished intensity of his frustration with being unable to conquer his own wants and wanting, while unable to satisfy them.

Poor Father Ralph (Richard Chamberlain). His "bottom line" indecision-dilemma haunts him throughout the story. At the end, he has to face up to not having ever made a firm valid CHOICE. In fact he's hedged and walked a tightrope all along, partially having it both ways, at the expense of each.

The Thorn Birds

I 'm reminded of an underlying theme in the famous TV series drama, “The Thorn Birds”.

It features a priest whose ecclesiastic ambition and his human desires tear and torture him, but do not prevent his rise in the ranks, though he feels not fully worthy so long as he is guilty of “wanting”, but he doesn't know how to stop it. It's a vicious circle for him. Even wanting to be free of it provides another futile want to plague him.

Though he attains next to the very highest office in the church which he wants and has aspired to, he constantly wrestled with his desire for the girl he's loved since she was a child, till finally he is encouraged by his superior to go to her in order to make a real choice.

He goes to her and loves her passionately, yet still he wants to return to his post and does so.

But his "wanting" was never fully stilled or satisfied because he could never make a real decision and true commitment.

Consequently, he missed the full joy of both.

For me this movie portrays the basic human dilemma and illustrates the need to decide and to be honest with oneself and others, whatever the religious views are.

Season of Wanting to Get or Season of Wanting to Give?

Now ‘tis the season when giving and receiving are uppermost in minds.

Often, rather than paying attention to loved ones throughout the year and picking up on their interests for clues or their subtle references to things they’d love to have in order to DECIDE what to GIVE them during this season, we ASK THEM “What do you WANT? We may ask for - or they may volunteer - their “want lists”, in fact!

Normally I do not write a “want list” and usually I pretty much ignore others’ want lists. I prefer to be given what someone wishes to give and I definitely prefer deciding what I want to give. The one time I made a list was for my beloved when his memory was beyond remembering things and his son took him to Christmas shop for me. They needed suggestions from which to choose, but, - as it turned out, - my beloved got me everything on the list! But for each selection, he chose the "one" using his meticulous taste and with consideration for mine.

Gifting is of high importance to me. I love to pick up on those unselfconscious clues people occasionally drop in everyday living. Often these tips go unnoticed. But a major part of a gift is that the giver picked up on a clue or bothered to think through what would fit a receiver's interests.

Perhaps children's writing their want lists for Santa Cllaus embeds that idea. There is convenience for the giver, simplifying the process and insuring the person's happy reception of it. Certainly being an appreciative receiver involves consideration of the giver, as well, and not just one's own pleasure with a gift. Both roles need attention and care.

So - what do we want this holy-day?  Peace of mind? Belonging? Wisdom? Beauty? Youth? Security? Things? Money? Gap clothes? 

We need to examine our own “want lists” from time to time, to be sure what we are “itching for” really fits our growth as persons. As an old adage: “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.

The only possessions

That count are


______© Nellieanna H. Hay

I want for you

What you want for you,

Whatever that may be.

______© Nellieanna H. Hay

The pleasure I receive

From pleasing you

Excels all others.

       It fulfills

My deepest need.

______© Nellieanna H. Hay


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    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Dallas - I get it! I've got it! As In "Eureka! I've got it!" - the famous quote by Archimedes when he realized the power of the lever.

      hehe . . . Now, if I could just find my lever! Where DID I leave my lever? I need it! I must move out from under all the grammar I was about to lay out! hehe. You see, I've just spent a couple of precious hours explaining what is grammatically wrong with "I have got" to mean "I have". OH, it's all true but if I feel nitpicked myself by it, almost beyond recognition, what must you have felt, - I asked myself. Even though I was going to appeal to your indulgence, it would still be opressive! I can't bring myself to do that to you. I like you too much.

      Now I'm just feeling ever so relieved that I forgot whatever it was I had intended to write which I thought of titling "I've Got It!" & have peaceably let it all fade into the faraway distance, as it mercifully has done on its own steam! Wisely to have relegated the grammar to the wastebasket is gratifying, too! hehe

      You're fun and I know you'd have allowed me to impose the grammar on you but I'm fun too - so I'm not-a-gonna-do-it.

      Thank you for a fun comment, dear Dallas!

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I have "got it."

      The Americans tend to use I have and the Brits "I have got."

      In the British sense, the got part could be seen as the past of get, and means that you already have got something so you already own it, it is there with you now. It suggests that at sometime or other you actually went out and bought a car for example...

      OK, I forgot what I have..!

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Aw - hello, hello - thank you. That was my motivation, but without so many thinking, articulate readers of it, it would amount to naught. I'm constantly awed by the high quality of the majority of Hubbers - certainly those among whom I'm fortunate enough to mingle. I guess my lengthy hubs scare off less thinking folks. I don't know - but whatever it is about Hubpages that draws quality writers and readers, it is fantastic for sure!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Such a high quality hub which provoked so many high quality comments. Fantastic. Only you can do this Nellianna. Thank you.

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      My computer's dictionary doesn't recognize it either, but Wikipedia does as an alternate spelling of auto-antonym (also missing from Apple's dictionary), along with contranym as another alternate spelliing. It means a word with a homograph, or a word of the same spelling but with the opposite meaning. That's English for you! :-)

      Yes - that is the pivotal question! Does one need it or want it? I notice that in our modern world we often distinguish the difference as being between a Rolls Royce or just a plain Ford, forgetting that not too long ago either was considered the height of luxury and even foolishness! LOL. It all depends on what comparisons are employed, I guess. There are plenty of places in the world today in which any car is a luxury most folks couldn't even think of needing or wanting and if they had one, they might not even have a place to park it.

      My little article was just to remind us all - especially at this season of gift-exchanging - just how much we have to be thankful for and also how easily it could all change. If it did change, would we know how to manage with bare necessities, if those were even available. Most people are so used to "having" enough - or more than enough, that they have almost lost the skills of "making do" and the resourcefulness which created the plenty in the first place.

      Sometimes it's good for a person to have to face a real need and certainly, dealing with deprivation of a want or two is good for one's overall perspective.

      Thanks amiillar - for the good comment & the visit to the hub!

    • amillar profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland, UK

      What an interesting subject, I've never heard the word autantonym before, (neither has my computer's dictionary, incidentally).

      When I hear the word want used, it reminds me of the question. "Do you need it or do you just want it?"

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Hi, Chris -so great to have you stop and leave such good comments. Thank you!

      Yes, I do savor what I have, both tangible and intangible. Always have, I guess. As for tangibles, I'm pretty good about making choices and not going for it all. So If I get this, then I'll forgo that. And I really appreciate what I have for more than its passing value. I admire the beauty and relish the comfort - and even the memory of lovely things.

      But I know that if I had to give up most of it, that I would be OK. I'm not too much of a "clinger".

      I highly value the intangibles you listed plus others. But I've been deprived of some of them and have needed to make peace with it, as well.

      It does help a LOT to have the love of your life with you. It's also nourishing to the soul to have HAD the love of your like with you. Somehow he/she seems to stay near even when gone on to whatever lies beyond.

      At one time my "hero" was "The Birdman of Alcatraz" because he managed to salvage himself and his mind and heart even in the most extreme of unending deprived circumstances. Mine were far from that extreme but enough that I took courage from thinking if he could do what he did in his situation, I surely could in mine.

      I guess that dependance on too much of any kind of "other" can be very damaging if it is somehow removed and one's props are removed with it. Being too willingly deprived is not so good either! LOL. A "poverty mentality" is surely as bad as its physical aspects! Holding "things" lightly and cultivating the intangibles within is a pretty good buffer for all of that. And it is always satisfying to be a giver more than a needer, I suppose.

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Alexandra - yes - that's a major want, healing for this planet and it very close to being an urgent need.

      If we each personally considered the value of wants vs. needs on a regular basis - yes, it would go a long way toward healing both the planet's ills and our species (including many individual) ills, no doubt. Of course there's no need to live pared down to the survival needs, and it's healthy to progress up the scale, the hierarchy of needs/wants. The either/or mentality is far too prevalent. I guess none of us like the thought of middle ground, even when it means happier and healthier. We're certainly not "built for" bare-boned living, but neither are we built for excesses of every kind. What seems to happen is that people figure if they can't have it all, means they get almost nothing.

      It's sort of like good dieting or moderate drinking: not doing without, but doing whatever it is in moderation. I loved that old, old movie, "Lost Horizon" which I saw at about age 7 with my mother. Shangri-la in this story was a place of harmony, where people didn't age, or war - and it was based on the principle of moderation. Perhaps it is not as far-fetched as it might seem on first encounter. Today it's rare. There is either "feast of famine" all over the world. Very little moderation.

      I couldn't agree more. Poor Father Ralph in the "Thorn Birds". That denial of that part of his humanity led to much unhappiness for him and others. Of course there are various art disciplines which try to impose that single-mindedness on their practitioners - ballet - as in "The Red Shoes", for example. And my design teacher warned that I needed to choose. (maybe she was right! haha) Again - the need is, as you so wisely noted - balance. I've always tended to be compulsive-obsessive and balance has been a major effort of my life. It feels good to go at things full-steam ahead. But there is always something else which is neglected when one does. Being a little more detached helps. And that is what weighing wants and needs helps one be.

      Thanks for the great comments and the visit. I've been missing you!! Don't be so moderate about visiting! hehe ;->

    • ChrisLincoln profile image


      7 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      You don't strike me as much of a 'want 'person. I imagine you as someone who savors what she has, especially the intangibles of life, like friends, peace and love.

      I think I 'wish for' more often than I want, maybe that's why I'm basically a very happy and satisfied person. (It helps to have the love of your life with you)

      Thought provoking hub,


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      There are a few people here before me who have expressed a similar 'want', healing for this beautiful planet. What would happen if we measured want versus need in everything we do, the things we buy and the things we must attain? The ripple effect would be huge and the world would indeed be better off!

      We don't need to live like monks but taking the time to recognize want vs need is a good thing to do. What would happen if we balanced it? The answer in the Thornbirds is simple. Allow priests to marry. Yes, it's a simplification but it really is the answer. The poor man was denying a basic need and that never has a good result. We humans are a strange lot. We are either madly fulfilling our every want and desire or we are piously denying basic needs.

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Oh, Kim Lynn - me too ! Just now I looked and saw that the sun is up - or at least it's light out. I think we may have some moisture during the day and it's chilly, but that's OK too. I am pretty sure that the sense of contentment is at least partly my age. hehe. I am also more than satisfied with "things" - and as you say - enough STUFF!

      I seem to experience the non-material goodies moment to moment - as needed.

      Always feels good to meet another Maslow follower. So glad you enjoying.

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      You are so right, Sa`ge! Good health is surely among the basic tier of the pyramid, without which nothing else can build. And having it is a beginning kind of self-actualization, a good foundation for expanding upward. I am so pleased that you like these thoughts! Thank you!

    • Kim Lynn profile image

      Kim Lynn 

      7 years ago

      Maybe it's my age, but I'm just Thankful to see the sun come up. Anything I would want, in any given moment, is usually non-material or a basic need. I have enough stuff!!! What I do want is: peace,comfort,joy,contentment,love,healing etc. I hadn't thought of Maslow in a few years. Nice refresher.

      Love the hub-love your thoughts.



    • Sa`ge profile image


      7 years ago from Barefoot Island

      Morning; I love this piece, says so much about inner man. all I want is good health. then the rest would follow. Funny isn't it. thank you Nellieanna, this is wonderful. :D hugs :D

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      I might have known you knew Maslow, Dallas! Thank you for the high compliment. Maslow and Carl Rogers were among my personal gurus (in books) during earlier years.

      I'm smiling. Earlier while I was doing something else I had a silly thought I decided I should write in a little hub. I thought that "I've Got It" was a good title. Didn't want to forget so I ran in here and jotted down those words. But when I looked at them when I settled back down to the computer, I had not the foggiest what it was I'd gotten and intended to write about! haha. Oh well. I begin to feel philosophical when that happens - forgetting -or even those maddening times when something vanishes into cyberspace one is writing. Figure it's probably just as well. If it's a case of forgetting, it will be remembered if it's of any value. And usually a rewrite when it's vanished like that helps edit it down to briefer words when and if it still seems worth it at all. LOL.

      Besides - self-actualization buffers a lot of stuff and nonsense, doesn't it? hehe.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I have studied Maslow and I can tell you: you have "got it!" Your "higher-order thinking skills" have crafted an easy read for a multi-faceted, reflective topic...

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      What a pristine lesson for them, Dave! Thanks for sharing that with me, Dave. Theirs is indeed a wisdom everyone needs.

      My children were naturaally nice about not asking for things and appreciating whatever they got, but their paternal grandmother grilled them with, "what do you want or need?" and wouldn't be satisfied till they asked for something. Generally, though, they thought of being given things as either receiving expressions of love or - worse - as being "bought off". That is a tragedy if that's the perception. These days of extreme advertising, though, I guess it's part of the message.

      But there is as much grace possible in receiving as in giving, really, whatever the gift.

    • DavePrice profile image


      7 years ago from Sugar Grove, Ill

      When my children were young, as most children will do they would clamor Daddy I want that as we walked through a store. It didn't take me long to break each of them of the habit by simply asking a question: "How's it feel to want?" When they were young it brought a quick end to the clamor; when they grew older they gained a wisdom about want that most people, including me, should aspire to.

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Dear, dear Martie. What a lovely comment mini-hub - it adds another wonderful facet to my WANT hub. It's so timely, too. I just visited Pamela's hub about Swarovski crystal jewelry ideas for gift-giving. What I wrote there epitomizes my feeling for special gift-giving. My precious George really had a knack for giving the most special gifts. He wasn't one to bring home flowers and he very rarely gave "personal" things like perfume or clothes. But he loved to give lasting things. He gave me an exquisite cameo one year. Another, a crystal ball with a hand-blown heart in the middle of the solid glass (what a mystery!) He spent real thought on gifts and it was such a pleasure for him to give something memorable.

      This is what I wrote on Pamela's hub, since it gave me such special memory:

      For years, my beloved George gave me exquisite Swarovski small crystal animals for Christmas. They are lovely to begin with but knowing that he spent considerable time and thought selecting each one. They had to have just the right expression on their faces1 Eventually he gave me a lovely wall curio box to house them, along with some of my other special treasures. It has a mirrored background and 2 glass tiers, along with the bottom of the box. So each level has crystal animals - the bottom are the water animals, middle the land animals and top - the sky animals. They really are a treasure and your lovely hub reminds me of all those joyous moments of opening a present with a Swarovski crystal animal inside.

      Your response gives a glow to the whole thing of gift-giving and the balance between want and need - for oneself and for giving to others, Martie. You are so fortunate to have had your children with you all the years and to have been able to share the Christmases and all giving occasions with them. I love hearing about them! I have some "seared" memories in that area & a few "grinches" in my backlog of Christmases.

      Thank you for the humbling and honoring words, too. Hugs and love to you!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      I agree with Abraham Maslow hierarchy of needs, and I think this is the best article ever written about ‘want’. Nellieanna, I just can’t see any impureness in you. You are so true, fair and awesomely wise.

      Because ‘wants’ is too often selfish and self-centred needs, I’ve managed to live in accordance with one rule – a question I always asked myself when I had money to fulfill what my heart regarded as ‘needs’. “Can I live without it?” If the answer was ‘yes’, I went to the next item on my list. Always but always I found something I could not live without, and that would have been what I bought. Gifts, of course, I always appreciated, because most of the times it was what I wanted.

      My late ex-father-in-law was my Christmas Father in reality. Encouraged by my mother-in-law, he always fulfilled my ‘wants’ – a pressure cooker, sewing threads of all colors, expensive clothes for my children, perfume.... all the stuff I could easily lived without.

      Today I still live like this, although I tend to spoil myself and others too much with stuff I could not afford while my children were my financial dependants. To myself and them I now tend to give what we want and not necessarily what we need. Because I already have everything I need, and it is not my responsibility, nor necessary for me, to fulfill my children’s and grandchildren’s needs. Though I must add, I never give unimportant gifts. I give what is needed but not the basics. Stuff like books, music tuition fees, works of art....

      Take care of yourself, my dearest mother-in-space. I love you too much!

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Jill - thank you. I mean what that poem says, too. I think too often we think we are being kind but our kindness is too often imposing what WE want on others rather than truly wanting for them their own aspirations and dreams to be fulfilled. I guess most of us have felt the effects of that at some time.

      hehe - no I wouldn't actually want to own that sequined jacket, either. Just think how hard it would be to care for it! hehe. It is the current style though. Sequins and jeans. hehe.

      I'm honored that you admire my writing. Thank you!! And thank you for the votes too.

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Whidbeywriter - what a joy to see YOU here! I am so much with you, earnestly wanting love and peace for this old earth and its inhabitants. It could be so easily accomplished if everyone who claims good intentions would demonstrate them, which would soon inspire them in others too. But each of us can do our part, and that is something.

      Thank you for coming. I must check on your page too. You have such a lovely view on it.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Another truly beautiful hub from you! I love the short poems too especially the second one!

      "I want for you

      What you want for you,

      Whatever that may be."

      I like the way you said that.

      I like that sequined jacket too, but I don't necessarily want it.

      I want to be able to write as beautifully as you! So there!

      Voted up and beautiful!

    • Whidbeywriter profile image

      Mary Gaines 

      7 years ago from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington

      This really jogged my brain if you will - great hub. What I truly "want" is unattainable it seems here on earth. I keep praying to Father God, he only knows what that is and my faith keeps me believing it will come to pass. Just love and peace on this earth nothing more nothing less. Cheers

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      christopheranton - I love that visual! Turning a "one" to double it is rather incidental, but turning a thousand would be nice profitability! hehe. But if a "penny saved is a penny earned", then perhaps a doubled one is worth the effort, no? hehe

      Thanks for an interesting, thought-provoking comment! And for your visit, always - I'm pleased and thankful!

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      drbj - OH YES! They really do!! They study "demographics" and "target groups" based on just that idea - to SELL people on "needs" they didn't feel any need of prior to the PR! The fluid area is where and how to define a need of a new car at all. And now it's almost a bona-fide "need". But people do have other options which sufficed for hundreds and thousands of years prior to the invention of the car. The fact that we all feel a car is essential shows the power of PR over a period of time.

      And our ancestors managed without timepieces, too. Modern life is shaped around the incorporation of so many gadgets that have become "needs" - makes one pause and look at the entire structure with a more critical eye! LOL (just nobody try to take my computer hehehe!)

      haha - Yes -there are some very clear and fascinating auto-antonyms, aren't there? -Seems like the English language is specially full of them. Do all languages have so many, I wonder?

      Glad you liked those poems. I'm still trudging away at trying to transcribe all my many hand-written ones and I find others which fit the theme. I've been working on that project all day today. Seems uphill. I shouldn't have been so prolific! LOL.

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Violet Sun - You've captured in a few very choice words and ideas what it is to be "self-actualized" - which is the pinnacle of that "needs" pyramid. Truly you have! Thank you!

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Mentalist - Excellent question. Glad you brought it up.

      If it is necessary, then it's a need, right? "Necessary" is almost the definition of a need and vice versa, in fact.

      And there are "wants" which are not essential to physical life, but which contribute to the higher "needs" on the pyramid, of course. A human being is more than just a living, breathing organism.

      So at the base are those few needs without which one dies. They are not merely wants - - the physiological needs of food, air, water. Again,though, how much is required to continue life? - Many people overdo food, for example, both quantity and kind of food. People can live without caviar or ice cream. Those become wants. Many survivors of disasters survived on mere trickles of water. But we need a certain amount for optimum health. Beyond that, it can even be dangerous.

      Above the physiological needs are safety and security - somehow a need, although one might not die over the loss of it. Witness people in concentration camps - not safe and secure, but alive.

      Then belonging and love, which are needs for emotional health but not for merely staying alive. Same with self-esteem; it is needed in becoming all one can be, realizing one's full potential. Also are cognitive and aesthetic needs for fullest expanse of one's being, though many folks live comfortably without much education or exposure to fine art, etc.

      At the pyriamid's top is self-actualization, wherein all of the person comes "together" and becomes fully integrated as that person.

      But still, once past the basic physiological needs, variables are more and more personally selected, adjustable to tastes and skills. Some of them are truly wants and really serve no purpose other than pleasure. Wants which do not contribute can even become negatively opposed to healthy growth into all one can be.

      Of course, it is the person who must choose and decide which of the various possibilities to "need" for his or her personal development. There is no arbitrator telling one what is a need or a want. Results often tell it, though. Often it is a matter of "how much" of it is consumed or embraced. When something overshadows everything else it often becomes a negative value even if basically it is a good thing which contributes.

      The more one "rises" in the quest for becoming all one can me, the more and more is personal judgment involved. You KNOW if it is a need, more than likely. And you know if it is just a want, or a "it would be nice, but I can live just fine without it."

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      There is a superstition where I come from, that if you turn your money in your pocket when you first see the new moon, you will have double that amount in it at the next new moon.

      What I want is just once for me to have enough money in my pocket at the time to make it worth the effort.

      Thanks Nellieanna for an interesting, thought provoking hub.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      The manufacturers and sellers of luxury goods understand the concept of want vs need better than many psychologists. The car driver may want a Ferrari. But all he really needs is a new car. The fashionable woman may want a Rolex. But all she really needs is an operable watch.

      I had not thought about auto-antonyms for years, so thanks for reminding me. Two words that I recall as auto-antonyms are 'left' which can mean remaining, or gone. And 'dust' which can mean removing dust from or spraying with a fine powder.

      Thanks also for the three poems which are, as always, lovely.

    • VioletSun profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Thought provoking article! Hmmmmm, I want total inner peace, free from any left over inner demons; that's all I want, because when one has inner peace, the list of wants seem to dissapear, and yet life is still fulfilling and spontaneous.

      Rated up!

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      I want,what if it nessesary?

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Yes, Charlie - Both those "wants" are high on the Maslow pyramid. Writing is an esoteric want. BEing involves them all - from the basic survival all the way to the peak of self-actualization. I see that in you. Thanks for coming by and the nice comments!

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Acer, I understand, I think. "What if" one had it or didn't have it? Would it really matter? Usually it wouldn't. It's still true that "where your treasure is, there is your heart also." Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    • Nellieanna profile imageAUTHOR

      Nellieanna Hay 

      7 years ago from TEXAS

      Nothing wrong with frivolous, PV. If they were real needs they'd be sustenance food, water, air, or shelter. If they feed other purposes, they can't qualify for sustenance at the basic level, but they contribute to further development. It's a case for recognizing what it is and why. I like Maslow's pyramid precisely because it recognizes the fact that we are all climbing it at some level, pursuing the things or traits we value. Life is full of choices at every moment. Those choices of the moment almost always seem rather trivial at the moment, but they lead in some direction, ether toward or away from something of value & results, or something of negative value & results. If we drift unaware, it's not too surprising if we awaken to results we didn't want. Thank you for the good observations.

      Good luck with your art show!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Ahh gee, Nellie. As I have stated before, a woman so wise you are. I suppose as a writer, I want to write a great novel, but as a man, I just want to be. xox Charlie

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      For me to want,is then to ask,what if...this equasion came to me in the 10th grade when I pondered the first thought of God.;)This piece left me without want,Nellieanna.;)

    • Pleasure Venues profile image

      Pleasure Venues 

      7 years ago from South West US

      After finishing up office stuff this early morning, I go off to my art show this morning. I've thought about these things of wants and in a way, the things I make can be considered frivolous / but I guess my things are 'wants'! lol. This was a very thought provoking article. Thanks


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