I need one word that could roughly describe or imply something as both (1) necessary/essential/fundamental/foundational and (2) not sufficient/non-comprehensive/lacking/in need/primitive

The word needs to imply both of these general concepts.

The closest word I can think of that even comes close to incorporating both of these concepts is "basic," because it could imply that something was both essential as well as non-comprehensive?

I am writing an essay for my sexual ethics class, and am describing the framework for sexual morality that we've been studying: "SMIFT seeks to merge the (word for fundamental/essential as well as lacking/limited that would describe --->) Libertarian-contractualist approaches with the insights of the Leftist (Marxist/feminist) critiques of morality"

Basically, the Libertarian approaches to sexual morality are our mainstream and foundational views which highlight individual rights and autonomous choice, and thus outline the need for mutually informed consent without force, fraud, or duress as criteria for moral sex. This view is foundational in the sense that no one would contest the claim that mutual consent is necessary for moral sex. But the theory is lacking/not comprehensive/not sufficient to justify moral sex because it ignores morally relevant factors like unequal bargaining powers, the historical oppression of certain classes of people, desperate circumstances, etc that are not covered under force, fraud, or duress but nevertheless constitute exploitation and undermine consent.

  • 3
    Can you provide a sentence with blanks where the word would be used? That would make things easier for us.
    – Centaurus
    May 19, 2015 at 16:05
  • A prerequiste is invariably a necessary part of of a solution, but it's not normally sufficient to solve the problem. May 19, 2015 at 16:22
  • Possibly basic will provide what you need. 'forming the base or essence' as well as 'constituting or serving as the basis or starting point'
    – Bookeater
    May 19, 2015 at 18:06
  • 1
    a requirement could fit the bill. When phrased to imply that there are several of them.
    – MonkeyZeus
    May 19, 2015 at 18:22
  • basic does not entirely imply fundamental and essential. for example if a game has basic levels before normal levels. It is likely that you could complete normal levels without having done the basic levels. I think @MonkeyZeus is the closest from all the answers and comments so far.
    – Bob
    May 19, 2015 at 19:57

9 Answers 9


The item you are describing is prerequisite for whatever more comprehensive thing will be based on it. The term prerequisite certainly indicates that your subject is required or necessary, but also implies that its establishment or attainment is not the main goal. The noun form, referring to your subject as "a prerequisite" for something else, may be clearer to your readers. The adjective form, while less commonly used in my experience, is nevertheless also correct.

Update: Now that you've added the context, I'm not sure if the word prerequisite is appropriate for the ideological positions you're addressing. I'm afraid this comparison between moralities is over my head. You may wish to say "fundamental, yet limited," instead of looking for a single word... or just "foundational".


Elementary may suggest the idea of something basic but not definitive:

  • Of, relating to, or constituting the basic, essential, or fundamental part: an elementary need for love and nurturing.

  • Of, relating to, or involving the fundamental or simplest aspects of a subject.

The Free Dictionary

  • 1
    "Elementary" doesn't include any notoin of necessity or non-sufficiency so I don't think that really works. May 19, 2015 at 18:37
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby - something elementary does often imply more advanced stages...school is just an example.
    – user66974
    May 19, 2015 at 18:40

Perhaps the word you are looking for is 'required'. Something can be required but not sufficient for the whole.


Cornerstone. An element of a larger system that is necessary or foundational but cannot alone describe the larger system is said to be a cornerstone of the larger system.

Alternatively, you yourself used foundational, which should adequately express your intention.


Crucial might be a good option. The crux is indispensable, but it is always only a part, never a whole.

"The crux" almost always means "the most important part," but, for example, every step in a mathematical proof can be "crucial."

  • This does not address (2): insufficient. It says only that the something is (1), necessary/essential.
    – Drew
    May 20, 2015 at 3:11
  • @Drew I disagree, though the disagreement rests on the implied context, the connotation, that it is pointless to claim anything is crucial in isolation. Please see the linked definition. "That's crucial" is only a sensible statement in the context of evaluation with other elements of the same logical construct.
    – Jon
    May 21, 2015 at 0:02
  • I do not suggest "crucial" as a correct answer for the edited version of the question.
    – Jon
    May 21, 2015 at 0:11

Perhaps Rudimentary? Involving or limited to basic principles. "he received a rudimentary education" synonyms: basic, elementary, primary, fundamental, essential "rudimentary carpentry skills" antonyms: advanced of or relating to an immature, undeveloped, or basic form. "a rudimentary stage of evolution" synonyms: primitive, crude, simple, unsophisticated, rough, rough and ready, makeshift


minimalist, adj.: being or providing a bare minimum of what is necessary.

Sometimes just minimal, e.g., here.


If you think a thing is elementary, fundamental or essential, just state that explicitly. If you think something is lacking, flawed or imperfect, just state that explicitly. Don't forget to also state what it's lacking.

Don't try to put the maximum amout of implicit meaning into a single word. Make it easier for both you and your readers and express separate concepts as separate words. If you are having a hard time compiling the information you want to transmit into a single sentence, consider to reformulate and make 2 or 3 shorter sentences instead.

  • They might be making a haiku or something. Perhaps only one word is allotted to express this idea
    – Jim
    May 20, 2015 at 15:31

Try "SMIFT seeks to merge the Libertarian-contractualist approach to assessing sexual permissibility with the Marxist/feminist approach to moral justificationism"

More of a conceptual answer than a thesaurus answer, but I hope it helps.

PS the issue of consent discussed by a leading (political) libertarian http://libertarianhome.co.uk/2014/09/video-consent-with-christian-michel/ His sweatshop example later in the video is much more relevant than the cannibalism example used early on.

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