Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Proverb Meaning and Expansion of idea


The proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ means that the main driving force between any invention is the need. The basic human need to make life easy by implementing various concepts of science and technology is the primary force behind an invention. For example, telephone was invented for a need to communicate, television was invented for the need to get entertained, and likewise, the need to see in darkness had driven the need to invent light bulbs.

Expansion of idea

The proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ means that one is driven by the need to make an invention. If one is put into a difficult and challenging situation then he is driven to come out of it, using his wit, knowledge, skills, and other resources. This effort driven by the desire to invent a solution for the problems drives man towards invention.

It is obvious that only when one faces a difficulty that he or she is inspired to find out a solution that often results in the invention of some kind. The need to find out the solution to a particular problem encourages invention. History has many documented evidence to substantiate the authenticity of the proverb. The need to transport bigger stones or objects from one place to another has led to the invention of using logs of woods as wheels or sliders. Further, the need of man to travel at a faster rate had made man to invent rubber tires and wheels as we see today.

Short Stories on ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’

A story is the best way to understand the true meaning of a proverb. Keeping this fact in mind, I have given below a couple of stories on the proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ for you all to read and get inspired.

Short Story 1

Once there lived a poor child in a remote village of India. The boy’s father was a carpenter who had just enough to feed the family. He didn’t have enough money to buy toys for his son. The boy understood his father’s limitations and never asked for or demanded a toy. But, after all, he was a boy and loved toys, something that he could play with for hours at a time. He especially loved cricket but buying at least a bat and a ball was out of his father’s budget.

One day he was just sitting under a tree watching other children playing with their toys. He thought how better it would have been if he too had a toy to play with. He was engrossed in his own thoughts and watching others. Just then a gush of wind came and fruit fell down from the tree, rolling in front of the boy. The boy picked a nearby wooden stick and hit the round fruit with it, to send it rolling again. As the fruit rolled again, a great idea struck in the mind of the boy. He ran to his house and started frantically searching for something.

At last, he found it; a triangular piece of wood that has been left out by his father. This could serve as a good bat, the boy thought. When his father came back from work, the boy asked him to carve out a wooden ball. His father happily made a wooden ball for him. The boy was so happy – finally, he had bat and ball he can play with, that too without even spending a dime. This is so true that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. The boys need to have something to play with had driven him to invent bat and ball from basic resources available to him.

Short Story 2

There lived a crow in a village. Once the village was hit by drought and there was not a drop of water to be found. The crow felt thirsty and was left with no option but to fly in search of water.

He was flying over the adjacent village that he spotted a pitcher kept in between a barren field. He asked himself – could there be water in that? No, not possible, who would leave water in that pitcher in a place like that. Nevertheless, he flew down to take a look. To his surprise, the pitcher was 1/3rd filled with water. The water was too deep for the crow to reach down and quench his thirst, still, if he could somehow reach it, it would be not less than a blessing.

The crow thought and thought for ways to get access to the water, but failed to get a solution. Suddenly an idea came to his mind. He started putting pebbles in the pitcher, one by one. As the number of pebbles grew, the water rose, finally reaching the crow. The crow drank water and flew happily. Finally, his need to quench his thirst has taught him that stones can be used to raise the water level in a container. Alas, necessity is the mother of invention.


A perfect example of a proverb will help you understand the true meaning of the proverb. I am giving below a couple of examples on the proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ for you to better understand the meaning of the proverb.

“The first prisoner to escape a prison used bedsheets tied together to escape. The need to escape gave him the wit to invent a rope using bedsheets tied together. Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention.”

“The birds must have felt a desperate need for shelter under the sky; therefore, they invented to build nests from twigs, leaves, and other vegetations. It is true that necessity is the mother of invention.”

“The need to easily transport heavy loads from one place to the other had led the man to invent wheels. Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention.”

“They need to protect themselves from animals and also to hunt had made the Stone Age men to invent spears made from stones; therefore, necessity is the mother of invention.”

“Cars were invented out of the modern man’s need for safe and easy transportation from one place to another. It is, therefore, true that necessity is the mother of invention.”


The true author of the exact phrase, necessity is the mother of invention is unknown, but it is credited to Benjamin Jowett, an administrator at the University of Oxford. In his translation of 1871 Plato’s Republic, there comes a phrase – ‘The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.” The phrase is strikingly similar to the proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and has a similar meaning. A Greek translation by Jowett also mentions a phrase – “Our need will be the real creator.”

Prior to the translations by Jowett, the phrase was still popular in England, but in Latin. The earliest known use of the Latin phrase is documented to be by the Head Master of Winchester and Eton College, William Horman, who used the Latin phrase “Mater atrium necessitas” meaning in English “The mother of invention is necessity.”


The importance of the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is that it tells us that every important invention has been driven by a need and a zest to overcome difficulty.

It teaches us that when we face difficulty, it becomes imperative to overcome it by inventing solutions; however, big or small they may be. When we face a problem, we must approach its solution in an innovative way.