Background Lymph node fine-needle aspiration (LN FNA) cytology indicates necrosis in various diseases. Dominant necrotic features make the diagnosis of underlying conditions very difficult. Methods We retrospectively reviewed 460 patients who underwent cervical LN aspiration cytology that revealed necrotic findings at Keimyung University Dongsan Hospital in Daegu, Korea, from 2003–2017. Each specimen was evaluated and analyzed in association with the clinical findings, biopsy findings, and/or other ancillary tests, including acid-fast bacilli staining and molecular testing for Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Results When necrotic features were noted upon cervical LN FNA cytology, the most common pathologic LN FNA category was necrosis alone (31.5%). The second most common category was granulomatous inflammation (31.3%), followed by Kikuchi disease (20.0%) and malignant neoplasm (8.7%). In cases where the cervical LN FNA revealed necrosis alone, the most common final diagnosis was tuberculosis. In young patients, Kikuchi disease should be considered as one cervical LN FNA category, while metastatic carcinoma should be suspected in older patients. Conclusions Even when necrosis alone is observed in LN FNA cytology, it is important to determine the cause through further evaluation.