a necessary evil


Also found in: Acronyms.

necessary evil

Something bad that must exist or occur in order for something good to happen. These days, student loans are a necessary evil in order to get an education that leads to a well-paying job. Some view dictators as a necessary evil who keep the region stable by suppressing more radical elements.
See also: evil, necessary

a necessary evil

COMMON If you describe something as a necessary evil, you mean that although it is unpleasant, it is needed. He viewed war as a necessary evil. Managers sometimes think that training is a necessary evil that has to be done but is too expensive.
See also: evil, necessary

a necessary evil

something that is undesirable but must be accepted.
1997 Internet World Advertising may be a necessary evil. After all, someone has to support Internet ventures.
See also: evil, necessary

a ˌnecessary ˈevil

a thing that is unpleasant or even harmful, but which must be accepted because it brings some benefit: Injections against tropical illnesses are a necessary evil when you are planning to travel to that part of the world.I suppose all these security measures are a necessary evil.
See also: evil, necessary
References in periodicals archive ?
This amorphous group of political and intellectual figures shares what Wills thinks to be the misguided belief that "government, as a necessary evil, should be kept at a minimum; and that legitimate social activity should be provincial, amateur, authentic, spontaneous, candid, homogenous, traditional, popular, rights-oriented, religious, voluntary, participatory, and rotational.
Unfortunately A Necessary Evil is shot through with major errors, especially a pair of key blunders that undermines its assault on free markets and limited government.
Reading A Necessary Evil would never clue readers in to the perennial tension in the regulation of natural monopolies: how to squeeze out the monopoly profits without confiscating the invested capital.
For many, financial reports are viewed as a necessary evil required only for tax purposes or assessing profits and losses.