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ought1

[awt]
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auxiliary verb
  1. (used to express duty or moral obligation): Every citizen ought to help.
  2. (used to express justice, moral rightness, or the like): He ought to be punished. You ought to be ashamed.
  3. (used to express propriety, appropriateness, etc.): You ought to be home early. We ought to bring her some flowers.
  4. (used to express probability or natural consequence): That ought to be our train now.
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noun
  1. duty or obligation.
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Origin of ought1

before 900; Middle English ought, aught, Old English āhte, past tense of āgan to owe

Synonyms

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1. See must1.

Usage note

Ought1 forms its negative in a number of ways. Ought not occurs in all types of speech and writing and is fully standard: The conferees ought not to waste time on protocol. Oughtn't, largely a spoken form, is found mainly in the Midland and Southern dialects of the United States, where it is almost the universal form. Hadn't ought is a common spoken form in the Northern dialect area. It is sometimes condemned in usage guides and is uncommon in educated speech except of the most informal variety. Didn't ought and shouldn't ought are considered nonstandard.
Both positive and negative forms of ought are almost always followed by the infinitive form: We ought to go now. You ought not to worry about it. Occasionally, to is omitted after the negative construction: Congress ought not adjourn without considering this bill.

ought2

[awt]
noun, adverb
  1. aught1.
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ought3

[awt]
noun
  1. aught2.
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aught1

or ought

[awt]
noun
  1. anything whatever; any part: for aught I know.
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adverb
  1. Archaic. in any degree; at all; in any respect.
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Origin of aught1

before 1000; Middle English aught, ought, Old English āht, āwiht, ōwiht, equivalent to ā, ō ever + wiht thing, wight1

aught2

or ought

[awt]
noun
  1. a cipher (0); zero.
  2. aughts, the first decade of any century, especially the years 1900 through 1909 or 2000 through 2009.
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Origin of aught2

a naught, taken as an aught (cf. auger). See naught
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ought

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I know that I have spoken of him as I ought not to have spoken.

    Philothea

    Lydia Maria Child

  • He decided he ought to think more about what he was doing and what he should do.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • And yet there ought to be so much to do here; it's all so fresh and roomy and jolly.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • I ought to be supple enough after the practice of these three days.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • But all the while, the days grew shorter and the nights were colder than they ought to have been.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon


British Dictionary definitions for ought

ought1

verb (foll by to; takes an infinitive or implied infinitive)
  1. to indicate duty or obligationyou ought to pay your dues
  2. to express prudent expediencyyou ought to be more careful with your money
  3. (usually with reference to future time) to express probability or expectationyou ought to finish this work by Friday
  4. to express a desire or wish on the part of the speakeryou ought to come next week
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Word Origin

Old English āhte, past tense of āgan to owe; related to Gothic aihta

usage

In correct English, ought is not used with did or had. I ought not to do it, not I didn't ought to do it; I ought not to have done it, not I hadn't ought to have done it

ought2

pronoun, adverb
  1. a variant spelling of aught 1
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ought3

noun
  1. a less common word for nought (def. 1)
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Word Origin

C19: mistaken division of a nought as an ought; see nought

aught1

ought used with a negative or in conditional or interrogative sentences or clauses

archaic, or literary
pronoun
  1. anything at all; anything whatever (esp in the phrase for aught I know)
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adverb
  1. dialect in any least part; to any degree
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Word Origin

Old English āwiht, from ā ever, ay 1 + wiht thing; see wight 1

aught2

ought

noun
  1. a less common word for nought
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ought

v.

Old English ahte "owned, possessed," past tense of agan "to own, possess, owe" (see owe). As a past tense of owe, it shared in that word's evolution and meant at times in Middle English "possessed" and "under obligation to pay." It has been detached from owe since 17c., though he aught me ten pounds is recorded as active in East Anglian dialect from c.1825. As an auxiliary verb expressing duty or obligation (late 12c., the main modern use), it represents the past subjunctive.

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n.

"zero, cipher," 1844, probably a misdivision of a nought (see nought; for misdivision, see N); meaning probably influenced by aught "anything."

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aught

n.1

"something," Old English awiht "aught, anything, something," literally "e'er a whit," from Proto-Germanic *aiwi "ever" (from PIE *aiw- "vital force, life, long life, eternity;" see eon) + *wihti "thing, anything whatever" (see wight). In Shakespeare, Milton and Pope, aught and ought occur indiscriminately.

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aught

n.2

"nothing, zero," faulty separation of a naught (see naught; cf. also adder for the separation problem).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper