Learn English – Difference between “random want” and “whim”


What is the difference between the words random want and whim?

The definition of whim can be easily found in the dictionary:

a sudden wish to do or have something, especially when it is something
unusual or unnecessary

Random want is not on the dictionary. It turns out to be just two words combined together. But it seems to me to have nearly the same meaning as whim.

I came across this word chunk in the phrase made up by a native American:

They thought the problem to be settled was how on earth to get posters
to understand that CONTEXT is not just some random WANT on the part of
those who would like to answer, but an ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT.

But later in the discussion the native speaker writes:

random want fits better than whim

, which suggest that there is some difference for him between the words whim and random want.

So, what is the difference?

Best Answer

I think the difference here boils down to the differences between these words:

  • need (require)
  • want (desire but do not need)
  • whim (sudden or random desire)

The original quote is saying that context is a need, not just a want. When discussing requirements it is normal to prioritize according to needs and wants. That is the distinction that the author is making here.

A whim, on the other hand, is not as strong a desire as a want, and using the word "whim" softens the nature of the desire for context. Thus, the author wanted to keep the word "want" for its specific purpose in this context.