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I'm looking for a word meaning a thing that essential and indispensable, but with strong connotations of being functional and useful. This thing is essential because it is useful.

The closest I've been able to find is necessity, but that doesn't seem to highlight the functional nature of the thing in question. On the other hand, a term like utilitarian doesn't imply indispensable.

Example Sentence: Stack Exchange has become X, it's hard to imagine living without something so useful.

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    To me, indispensable has a very strong connotation of utility. I tried in vain to construct a scenario where I would label something useless as indispensable (although I believe I could stretch it with requisite or necessary and make something work). – Amadan Nov 6 '14 at 4:06
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    Essential connotes properties which make up a thing which are defining. Indispensable connotes properties which are required to fulfill a particular function. I think the word you want is indispensable. – Hack Saw Nov 6 '14 at 6:19
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instrumental has a connotation of both utility and necessity

Merriam-Webster

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  • This is a good one, I wish I could remember why I needed this word... – Chris Sunami supports Monica Jul 29 '16 at 4:32
  • @Chris Sunami ~ haha I only realized after the fact that this question was two years old, oh well it'll help someone who searches it years down the line, and I bet that's an inevitability rather than a possibility, what with it being such a useful question. – user180089 Jul 29 '16 at 4:36
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I think fundamental may express the concept that you want to convey regarding the importance of something which has become crucial to the necessities of a community.

  • forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central.

also paramount may suggest the idea:

  • of the greatest importance or significance; pre-eminent
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