Learn English – wanting two fingers of the left hand


In Treasure Island there is a description of Black Dog.

He was a pale, tallowy creature, wanting two fingers of the left hand,
and though he wore a cutlass, he did not look much like a fighter.

What does the phrase wanting two fingers of the left hand mean?

Why did the Author not use "missing" or "without"?

Best Answer

The word want is derived from the Old Norse vanta, which means "to lack."

The usage in your quote is a bit old yet quite familiar to readers of classic literature.

Should you consult a dictionary, you'll discover that the old meaning is still intact:


  1. to be without or be deficient in: to want judgment; to want knowledge.