[ awt ]
See synonyms for ought on Thesaurus.com
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.

  1. (used to express propriety, appropriateness, etc.): You ought to be home early. We ought to bring her some flowers.

  2. (used to express probability or natural consequence): That ought to be our train now.

  1. duty or obligation.

Origin of ought

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

synonym study For ought

1. See must1.

usage note For ought

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.

Words Nearby ought

Other definitions for ought (2 of 2)

[ awt ]


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use ought in a sentence

  • “Novelist good for nothing else,” said Samuel Beckett, and that ought to be taken as a compliment.

  • And is this a mere fantastic talk, or is this a thing that could be done and that ought to be done?

    The Salvaging Of Civilisation | H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • I, therefore, deliver it as a maxim, that whoever desires the character of a proud man ought to conceal his vanity.

    Pearls of Thought | Maturin M. Ballou
  • When we speak against one capital vice, we ought to speak against its opposite; the middle betwixt both is the point for virtue.

    Pearls of Thought | Maturin M. Ballou
  • I really ought to visit my California estates, and I have always wanted to see that part of America.

    Ancestors | Gertrude Atherton
  • But she told Grandfather Mole that it was all right—that she knew a person of his age ought not to go without his breakfast.

    The Tale of Grandfather Mole | Arthur Scott Bailey

British Dictionary definitions for ought (1 of 3)


/ (ɔːt) /

verb(foll by to; takes an infinitive or implied infinitive)
  1. to indicate duty or obligation: you ought to pay your dues

  2. to express prudent expediency: you ought to be more careful with your money

  1. (usually with reference to future time) to express probability or expectation: you ought to finish this work by Friday

  2. to express a desire or wish on the part of the speaker: you ought to come next week

Origin of ought

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

usage For ought

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

British Dictionary definitions for ought (2 of 3)


/ (ɔːt) /

pronoun, adverb
  1. a variant spelling of aught 1

British Dictionary definitions for ought (3 of 3)


/ (ɔːt) /

  1. a less common word for nought (def. 1)

Origin of ought

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

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