Utility has two primary meanings:
- as a concept in economics (see below)
- as a provider of electricity, gas or telephone or cell phone service
Utility functions are mathematical ways of representing the benefits accruing to a consumer from his consumption of various goods. A utility function, in conjunction with a budget constraint, may be used to determine a consumer's optimal bundle of goods.
The term utility has its origins in utilitarianism, a philosophical school of thought in ethics.