0

So..I understand the meaning of the phrase "not for (the) lack of trying" and then I've learned that "not for (the) want of trying" has the same definition. But how?! Is there a way to understand how 'want of trying' could mean the same thing as 'lack of trying'? (It's like, when I hear 'not for lack of trying', the meaning rings right away in my head, but with 'not for want of trying', my brain seems to pause and says "...what?")

  • 1
    Want noun. 1. The condition or quality of lacking something usual or necessary: stayed home for want of anything better to do. – dan Dec 26 '19 at 12:25
4

This is not the verb to want in the sense of to wish for, but in its older sense of to be lacking in. The related noun want means the same as lack.

  • 3
    I find this use of want a bit "dated". As this NGram shows, not for lack of [effort, opportunity,...] has overtaken want in recent decades. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '19 at 12:51
  • 1
    The verbal use is certainly semi-obsolete, but expressions such as in want of and for want of a nail see are pretty well-established. – Kate Bunting Dec 26 '19 at 13:45
  • I'd say in want of was well-established in Victorian times. But as that NGram shows, it was supplanted by in need of nearly a century and a half ago. Obviously we'd normally just say He needs X rather than He's in need of X, but He's in want of X is just "odd" to me. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '19 at 15:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.