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Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English oughte, aughte, aȝte, ahte, from Old English āhte, first and third person singular past tense of Old English āgan (to own, possess), equivalent to owe +‎ -t.




  1. (obsolete) simple past tense of owe
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Luke VII:
      There was a certayne lender, which had two detters, the one ought five hondred pence, and the other fifty.
    • , Folio Society, 2006, vol.1, p.182:
      witnesse Aristippus, who being urged with the affection he ought his children, as proceeding from his loynes, began to spit [].



  1. (auxiliary) Indicating duty or obligation.
    I ought to vote in the coming election.
  2. (auxiliary) Indicating advisability or prudence.
    You ought to stand back from the edge of the platform.
  3. (auxiliary) Indicating desirability.
    He ought to read the book; it was very good.
  4. (auxiliary) Indicating likelihood or probability.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 3, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      My hopes wa'n't disappointed. I never saw clams thicker than they was along them inshore flats. I filled my dreener in no time, and then it come to me that 'twouldn't be a bad idee to get a lot more, take 'em with me to Wellmouth, and peddle 'em out. Clams was fairly scarce over that side of the bay and ought to fetch a fair price.
    We ought to arrive by noon if we take the motorway.
Usage notesEdit
  • Ought is an auxiliary verb; it takes a following verb as its complement. This verb may appear either as a full infinitive (such as "to go") or a bare infinitive (such as simple "go"), depending on region and speaker; the same range of meanings is possible in either case. Additionally, it's possible for ought not to take any complement, in which case a verb complement is implied, as in, "You really ought to [do so]."
  • The negative of ought is either ought not (to) or oughtn't (to)
See alsoEdit



  1. Alternative spelling of aught; anything
    • Bishop Joseph Hall
      Is it a small benefit, that I am placed there [] where I see no drunken comessations, no rebellious routs, no violent oppressions, no obscene rejoicings, nor ought else that might either vex or affright my soul?


ought (not comparable)

  1. Alternative spelling of aught; at all, to any degree.

See alsoEdit


ought (plural oughts)

  1. A statement of what ought to be the case as contrasted with what is the case.
    • 1996, Mortimer Jerome Adler, The Time of Our Lives: The Ethics of Common Sense[1]:
      There are value judgments that are not reducible to observable matters of fact, and there are oughts that cannot be construed as hypothetical and, therefore, cannot be converted into statements of fact.
    • 2004, Jacques Maritain, John G. Trapani, Truth Matters: Essays in Honor of Jacques Maritain[2]:
      Is there a fallacy involved in deriving an ought from a set of exclusively factual or descriptive premises?


Etymology 2Edit


ought (plural oughts)

  1. Alternative spelling of aught; cipher, zero, nought.
    • Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
      I go back at eight o'clock to-morrow morning, and have got only three — three oughts is an ought — three twos is six — sixty pound.


Most common English words before 1923 in Project Gutenberg: subject · can't · ready · #442: ought · written · arms · across