The dictionary says that a lack of something means an absence or not enough of that thing. If that is the case then what should I assume in this type of contexts:

a lack of recreational facilities

a lack of entertainment facilities

a lack of sporting facilities

a lack of facilities for the disabled

Are these sentence telling us that there is an absence of these facilities or availability of these facilities is not enough? Here is the full sentence:

The organisers opposed this idea because they desired to protect the integrity of the Nordic Games and were concerned about a lack of facilities for winter sports

  • 4
    As the dictionary says, it could mean either. May 18, 2022 at 10:16
  • Which one I should take?
    – Ghost
    May 18, 2022 at 10:17
  • 3
    It depends on the context. If a sentence is, for example, "A lack of sports facilities means that nobody can take exercise" then it is "none". If the sentence is "A lack of sports facilities means that not everybody can take exercise" then it is "not enough". May 18, 2022 at 10:17

2 Answers 2


If a dictionary tells you a word can have two mutually-exclusive meanings, then context ought to make it clear which is meant.

For example, if it was said a car "lacks features" it would not mean the car had no features at all. It must feature an engine, a dashboard, windows and doors! But it may not have aircon, the latest radio etc.

On the other hand, if you tasted some food and said it was "lacking something" that could suggest a key ingredient is absent and needs adding.

Ironically, your examples are lacking context - meaning there is no context at all. That makes it impossible to say what the meaning might be. For example, if someone said a hotel was lacking entertainment facilities I might assume it meant none. But if someone said the same about a whole town I would assume it meant that more facilities were needed, because I cannot imagine a town without a single thing that could be considered an entertainment facility - not a single bar, municipal park, playing field etc.


Absence means absolute zero, lack implies that there are a few facilities but not enough.

In your context, lack most likely means not enough.

  • zero is also not enough, and sometimes "lack" is used to describe there being none of something.
    – Esther
    May 18, 2022 at 18:33
  • to add to Esther's comment, the phrase "complete lack" is fairly common and can indicate absence
    – PoolOfPeas
    May 19, 2022 at 6:45

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