- (used to express duty or moral obligation): Every citizen ought to help.
- (used to express justice, moral rightness, or the like): He ought to be punished. You ought to be ashamed.
- (used to express propriety, appropriateness, etc.): You ought to be home early. We ought to bring her some flowers.
- (used to express probability or natural consequence): That ought to be our train now.
- duty or obligation.
Origin of ought1
SynonymsSee more synonyms for ought on Thesaurus.com
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.
- anything whatever; any part: for aught I know.
- Archaic. in any degree; at all; in any respect.
Origin of aught1
- a cipher (0); zero.
- aughts, the first decade of any century, especially the years 1900 through 1909 or 2000 through 2009.
Origin of aught2
Examples from the Web for ought
When companies do bad things they ought to be held accountable for them.Why Do ‘Progressives’ Want to Ban Uber and AirBnB?
Adam Thierer, Christopher Koopman
December 30, 2014
We ought to seek Chinese cooperation in a response to this North Korean act of aggression.Obama Could Hit China to Punish North Korea
Shane Harris, Tim Mak
December 20, 2014
Then when we arrive at his flat in Shepherd's Bush following the escape, perhaps there ought to be remnants of the ladder.Alfred Hitchcock’s Fade to Black: The Great Director’s Final Days
December 13, 2014
The officers explained that those Sikhs had been lynched to death and that Singh ought to anticipate the same fate for himself.As 30-Year Anniversary of Mass Killings in India Arrives, Sikhs Find Safety in USA
Simran Jeet Singh
October 31, 2014
“Novelist good for nothing else,” said Samuel Beckett, and that ought to be taken as a compliment.Nobel Prize Winner Modiano’s Magical Musical Prose About Paris
October 14, 2014
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.
And yet there ought to be so much to do here; it's all so fresh and roomy and jolly.
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
- to indicate duty or obligationyou ought to pay your dues
- to express prudent expediencyyou ought to be more careful with your money
- (usually with reference to future time) to express probability or expectationyou ought to finish this work by Friday
- to express a desire or wish on the part of the speakeryou ought to come next week
- a variant spelling of aught 1
- a less common word for nought (def. 1)
ought used with a negative or in conditional or interrogative sentences or clauses
- anything at all; anything whatever (esp in the phrase for aught I know)
- dialect in any least part; to any degree
- a less common word for nought
Word Origin and History for ought
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.
"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.