- (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 oughts
But don't you see I have grown up outside the pale of duty and 'oughts.'Wives and Daughters
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
There are no oughts in my life which I have gotten from my father.Child Versus Parent
He ought to have been inside at his business; but oughts went for little with Cyril.Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles
Mrs. Henry Wood
You have a special apparatus within you for dealing with a universe where oughts are flagrantly disregarded.The Human Machine
E. Arnold Bennett
Why, I towld him av he guv the boys a promise, he oughts never to go back from his word.The Macdermots of Ballycloran
- 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 oughts
"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.
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.