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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
See also:
References in periodicals archive ?
The fatal flaw in A Necessary Evil is that Wills treats history not primarily as an enterprise for unearthing the truth but as a weapon to pummel his contemporary intellectual and political opponents.
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." I for one know of no person or group that embodies this eclectic collection of virtues, but in these characteristics Wills finds the grist to attack in breathless succession all sorts of people and groups, ranging from Louis Brandeis and Earl Warren (for misreading the Federalist Papers) to the National Rifle Association and U.S.
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.
For many, financial reports are viewed as a necessary evil required only for tax purposes or assessing profits and losses.
The fact is that short-sighted managerial practice has concentrated its emphasis on using new technology strictly for production purposes while relegating maintenance to the traditional role of "a necessary evil." This approach, over time, will be the downfall of our industry.
As little more than a necessary evil, tolerated only because of fears of the dark side (antiselection, material misrepresentation, fraud) of human nature.
The vertical-colossus-underwriter was seen as little more than a necessary evil. The horizontal-risk-manager will come to be seen as the champion of converting intentions into income.