In the example below, I’m looking for a suitable synonym for nice-to-have. I’m specifically looking for an appropriate noun replacement; do we actually have such a thing in English?

Maintenance shouldn’t be a ‘nice-to-have’ but an all-important necessity.

  • 39
    I disagree that "nice to have" as a noun is horrible. I think it's actually downright delightful.
    – Robusto
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 13:41
  • 42
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 14:35
  • 16
    "convivial-to-retain" Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 16:59
  • 9
    Agreeing with @Robusto: a nice thing about nice-to-have is its parallelism with need-to-have.
    – dj18
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 19:04
  • 12
    Nice-to-have is a nice-to-have.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 19:39

17 Answers 17


When contrasting with "necessity", Doug's option is a typical contrast.

Maintenance shouldn't be an option, but an all-important necessity.

Another contrast tends to be luxury.

Maintenance shouldn't be a luxury, but an all-important necessity.

  • 14
    "Luxury" is a great suggestion, it better conveys that it's a desirable ("nice") option. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 23:02
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    "shouldn't be an option" when read alone can also mean that it shouldn't even exist. While the sentence makes sense given the second half, it causes a mental disconnect for people who assumed it meant something else when reading the first half, somewhat like an unintentional paraprosdokian.
    – March Ho
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 1:43
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    I think "Maintenance shouldn't be optional,..." removes the confusion pointed out by others
    – Dhara
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 7:10
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    +1 Continuing the other comments, "an option" could be replaced with "an optional extra".
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 14:58
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    So who was first to suggest "option"? Doug, I guess but it seems users are also upvoting "option" as well as "luxury". I think a direct link to Doug's answer is in order here.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 5:49

Bonus carries the non-essential nature of what you're after. Maybe "bonus feature", or "added bonus".

  • 4
    I'd say this is the best answer. Other suggestions, such as 'option' or 'choice', can have a neutral connotation, while 'bonus' maintains the positiveness of 'nice'.
    – user1359
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 16:05
  • 1
    @user1359 If you like "nice", see my answer ;)
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 16:18
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    Bonus does not clearly indicate desirability so I consider this a poor choice to replace nice-to-have. "He crashed his car and got a broken collar bone for a bonus." will not work right as "He crashed his car and got a broken collar bone for a nice-to-have."
    – O.M.Y.
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 13:03
  • 1
    But the bonus in your example is ironic, no? The etymology as well as common usage points to it invariably being a Good Thing.
    – JHCL
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 13:21
  • I agree with @O.M.Y. and I think the same holds true in reverse. "Maintenance shouldn’t be a bonus but an all-important necessity" doesn't quite match up with the spirit of the original. I do think added feature could work, though.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 21:43

nicety [nahy-si-tee] –dictionary.com

  1. Usually, niceties. a refined, elegant, or choice feature, as of manner or living: working hard to acquire the niceties of life.

Maintenance is not a nicety, it's an all-important necessity.

  • 5
    nicety is not used in the same way as nice-to-have. Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 13:37
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew - there are multiple meanings of nicety. This is one of them. And I think it works incredibly well in the example sentence, as it is of a similar form to "necessity".
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 15:02

Maintenance shouldn't be an extra.

extra n.

  1. an additional feature.

{R H K Webster's}

extra n

  1. Something more than is usual or necessary

{AHDEL; same link}

  • 2
    This is, of course, obviously, the correct answer. The general voting and comments on this QA is - in my opinion - and as always I try to express this as politely as possible - The general voting and comments on this QA is essentially "insane" or perhaps "bizarrely meaningless". I suspect there are two things in play: (1) this site has a staggering level of velocity voting. ("If this was the stock market we'd all be rich."). (2) Secondly I believe you get what I, without trying to be offensive, call "naive voting..."
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 14:24
  • ...wherein folks vote for, essentially, nicely formatted answers and/or answers that in themselves (admirably) have good grammar and typing.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 14:25
  • @Joe I think you're trying to say 'Ignore the 37etc : 5 returns'. Thanks. I almost always do. I rarely give answers when I think only a comment is merited. The rep-point system is quite clever and useful, but obviously far from perfect. The other answers here are reasonable. What infuriates me on ELU is rather the answers 'You should ...' or 'The rule is ...' trotting out mere opinions (especially when they're incorrect). Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 17:06
  • Ah well. We all need a good bit of infuriation outlet in our day!
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 17:16
  • @JoeBlow - I think a lot of the "velocity voting" and attention that this question is receiving comes from the frustration with workplace neologisms. I think the act of voting is an outlet of frustration and an expression of relief at finding a common-sense alternative.
    – mskfisher
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 13:29

I think the word "option" fits nicely in place of "nice-to-have". This sense of "option" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "an item that is offered in addition to or in place of standard equipment".

  • 2
    How about: not "option" but "optional add-on".
    – Tom Hundt
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 19:48
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    +1 because the highest upvoted answer also has "option", and I fail to see why users do not upvote this answer as well. This answer provides a solid reference too.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 5:52

I suppose you're trying to give parts of speech to the MosCow categories: Must have, Should have, Could have, Would have.

As adjectives, the closest I can think of are:

  • 'a must-have' - adj: necessary/obligatory/requisite, n: necessity/obligation/requisite

  • 'a should-have' - adj: recommended, n:recommendation

  • 'a could-have' or 'a nice-to-have' - adj:possible/desirable, n:possibility/desire

  • 'a would-have' - adj:allowable/disposable/unnecessary n:??

And you can make nouns more easily out of these as you please.

The modals don't correspond as cognates to any nouns or adjectives.

  • 5
    +1 for desirable, suggest you bold or otherwise emphasize that specific word.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 13:58
  • "Desirable" is exactly the word I'd use to describe a "nice-to-have" feature. Good job on suggesting the emphasis.
    – Michael
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 15:22
  • 1
    I beg to disagree: 'desirable' is a strong, 'nice' a weak word. 'Nice-to-have' means basically 'non-essential' which doesn't go well with 'desirable', imo..
    – TaW
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 15:59
  • @TaW Sure, I see that. But they both work for the same category. Something that is desirable is not in the same category as 'should have'. You just want it rather than need it.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 21:40

Having had many conversations like this between business and technical teams, we often use this phrasing:

"Maintenance is a need, not a want."

It gets the point across in a concise sentence. Another way of saying it:

"Maintenance is a hard requirement."

I would probably use this form myself actually.

This type of phrasing is used extensively in these types of environments, not sure how common it is in "the rest of the world" so to speak.

  • 2
    This answer seems more focused on "need-to-have" than "nice-to-have", but "want" is definitely a good suggestion for the latter. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 23:04
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    It does, but that is generally the way this type of sentence is approached in business/technical circles. The focus is first on what is absolutely needed, then what is just wanted. So in effect I flipped the sentence around a bit in an attempt to address the underlying intent. To me the original is too long, and since it was addressing "maintenance" it seemed to address a requirement indirectly. Flipping it around refocuses the intent on the need first. See also talrnu's answer. I also like Edwin's answer: "Maintenance shouldn't be an extra" but "should" can imply "want" in this context.
    – Dave
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 16:02

"Maintenance shouldn’t be a choice, but an all-important necessity."

choice (noun) "a range of things that can be chosen" MW

  • Given the choice, I'd rather stay home tonight.
  • They gave me a choice between an automatic or standard transmission.
  • There is a wide range of choices.
  • Other choices on the menu looked equally tempting.

Nice-to-have is used to describe things near the end of a list of priorities that would be "nice to have", but are only worth pursuing if you end up having surplus resources after completing all of the higher-priority "need-to-haves". This term only works in a context where you're uncertain about exactly how much of your budgeted resources will be spent on the more important goals, so it's possible that those extraneous goals could also be met. If you could be more certain about exact costs, these terms wouldn't come into play at all.

Another term for a very similar concept is stretch goal, especially popular lately due to its use in crowd funding terminology. These are goals beyond the minimum requirement which add value to the final product of the project, but aren't necessary to achieve viability for the project.

  • Aspirational goal (or target) seems also a thing, particularly popular lately due to the IPCC 1.5°C global warming talk.
    – mirh
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 9:57

If you don't object to a Latin loanword, desideratum may offer what you are looking for. It can be found in virtually any good English dictionary.


Add-on would work with either a change in word order:

"Maintenance (or safety/security) is an all-important necessity, and [therefore] should not be an add-on";

or a change in word choice:

"Maintenace (or safety/security) shouldn't be an add-on, but standard equipment/an [all-important] integrated feature.

"add-on"/noun/b: = "something ... that enhances the thing it is added to" (i.word/i.dictionary)


Window Dressing

As in: 'Maintenance shouldn’t be seen as 'window-dressing' but as an all-important necessity."

From Merriam-Webster:

These changes are being made for a good reason. They're not just window dressing.

This is a more idiomatic choice than the answers so far.

  • 1
    +1, especially for clearly pointing out that adding “seen as … but as …” is required to make [better] sense of the example in the OP (and of all the answers that fail to point this out). The mention of ‘changing word order/word choice’ in my answer was an attempt to address this issue , but your answer makes it clear: an all-important necessity is an all-important necessity, whether seen as such or not.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 12:58
  • 1
    To me, window dressing means "has no value other than aesthetic"; your dictionary link would support this. While it is often nice to improve aesthetics, aesthetics in and of themselves do not cover the whole range of things which can be "nice-to-have".
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 8:06

Lots of great words here already. A few more ideas:

nonessential (noun or adj)

incidental (noun or adj)

icing on the cake (noun, but doesn't take an article)

side dish (noun, needs an article)

frill (noun, need the article)

discretionary or discretional or left up to your discretion (adj)

left up to individual taste (adj)

just the flavor of the day (noun)

facultative (adj)

noncompulsory (noun or adj, but usually an adj)

take-it-or-leave-it (coined, but then so was nice-to-have)

  • 3
    There are very some good suggestions but also a few bad ones mixed in there. This is the trouble when a user replies with an overly long list.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 6:09

Since you're not specifically asking for a single-word solution, here's an alternative that, especially in the software world, nicely groups the nice-to-have items:

bells and whistles

From dictionary.reference.com:

plural noun

  1. additional features or accessories which are nonessential but very attractive: my car has all the latest bells and whistles

  2. additions, such as options or warranties, made to a financial product to increase its market appeal

As a plural noun, it may not fit your purposes exactly if you're looking for a single term to describe a single nice-to-have item, but you could always say, "Maintenance shouldn't be one of the bells and whistles, but an all-important necessity."

  • 1
    For what it's worth, coming from an IT world, I don't find nice to have a horrible word at all - which may just be because I've been exposed to it for so long (it's not that new, by the way), but there you go. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 5:41

I would go with Could Have (when you can), or Possibility when you can't. Below is an example of what I do.

When doing requirements gathering I use a MoSCoW Document.

Must Have - You have to have to to be considered done
Should Have - If there is any way possible, this should really be there too.
Could Have - (This is your nice to have category) If there is any budget left do these things
Won't Have - Not going to be included in this iteration, but is not precluded in future iterations.

An example:

M - A car must have 4 wheels.
S - A car should have a windshield
C - A car could have a 6 disk CD changer
W - A car won't have seat warmers

All that being said, the "answer" is "Could Have". "Nice to Have" is perfectly legit though. Generally the main problem with "nice to have" is the sense of entitlement that it bestows. For example if your pay $1,000 you should at least get some nice things. By using "Could Have" you change that "possibilities" and not "niceties". The main point being that it's what surrounds the "nice to have" that is important.

In your example, "Maintenance shouldn’t be a ‘possibility’ but an all-important necessity."


"Luxury" or "convenience"

Maintenance is not a mere convenience, but a necessity.

Luxury is similar, but stressed the optional nature of the thing. You REALLY don't need a luxury, but might want it. A convenience is more on the level of "nice to have".


Could I interest you in an adjective? In fact, 'nice-to-have' is already an adjective used substantively.* That is, it modifies a (vaguely) implied noun, just like slothful in this passage from Proverbs 24 about people who consider maintenance merely nice to have:

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding, and lo, it was all grown over with thorns.

Implied nouns in situations like these are usually pretty vague and don't add much to the meaning, which is why people prefer to omit them. In your sentence, the implied noun is something like 'thing', and in the passage from Proverbs, it's something like 'man' or 'person' or 'people'.

Regardless of the part of speech, it sounds like what you want is a modifier for 'maintenance'. So here are some options:

Maintenance isn't just nice, it's necessary.

Maintenance isn't merely nice to have, it's a necessity.

Maintenance isn't optional, it's mandatory.

Maintenance isn't nice, it's necessary.

I find the last one the most forceful, but of course your exact word choice should depend on exactly what you what to say, what connotations you want to evoke, and where you want to place the emphasis. The last one implies that maintenance is an unpleasant chore: maybe you want to empathize with the reader's dislike of maintenance, or maybe you'd rather not suggest that at all.

If you really want a noun, you could make the implied noun explicit. This suggests a stronger verb than 'have':

Maintenance isn't merely a nice thing to do, it's a necessity.

*A compound adjective containing a noun and an infinitive verb, but let's not split hairs.

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