Difference Between Want and Desire

Want vs Desire

The two words, want and desire, are used interchangeably by most of us to refer to the same thing even though there is a subtle difference between both the words; namely, want and desire. Using them interchangeably is rather inaccurate as the degree of longing is different from one to the other. When we say want, it is a simple desire for something that we do not possess already. A desire, on the other hand, is a more intense craving that a person has for something or someone. So the main difference between the two stem from the degree of longing. Desire being stronger and more intense, continues and grows for a longer period in comparison to a want, which can be considered as less in degree and time duration. This article attempts to highlight the difference between these two terms, while elaborating on the two words.

What does Want mean?

A want is something that you desire and something that an individual does not possess yet. Unlike a need, which is mandatory for existence such as in the case of oxygen, water, or food, wants are not mandatory for the existence. However, people have unlimited wants, and which are forever changing. This once again highlights another characteristic of a want. It is forever changing as what a person might consider as a want in this second might not be so in the next. For example, when we say,

I want to have a slab of chocolate now.

This is a want, because at this particular moment the person desires for a slab of chocolate as he or she does not have one. However, this is susceptible to change very quickly. A want emerges due to a lack or shortage of something. According to some religions, wants and desires are both considered as root causes of pain and suffering. Even when examining the world today, it is the unlimited number of wants, which make life very complex and difficult.


I want to have a slab of chocolate now.

What does Desire mean?

The word desire can be defined as a strong feeling of wanting something or someone. It is similar to a craving, which is more intense in comparison to a want. Unlike in the case of a want, a desire has a stronger degree of longing and the need for fulfillment. Unlike a want that come and passes away quickly, a desire stays a longer period. During this period, the person, who has the desire, attempts to make it a reality. For example, a person who desires to be a pianist would try to work harder and play well in order to achieve it. Also, by saying that the person desire to be a pianist rather than wants to be a pianist, brings out the strong feeling of longing and also that it has been there for a longer period of time.

Difference Between Want and Desire

Becoming a pianist was his desire.

What is the difference between Want and Desire?

• A want can be defined as a simple desire for something that one does not have already.

• A desire is a more intense craving that a person has for something or someone.

• The main difference is that while a desire is stronger and an intense feeling, this is comparatively less in the case of a want.


Images Courtesy: 

  1. Chocolate via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Pianist by Ghmp (CC BY-SA 3.0)