- (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.
- anything whatever; any part: for aught I know.
- Archaic. in any degree; at all; in any respect.
- a cipher (0); zero.
- aughts, the first decade of any century, especially the years 1900 through 1909 or 2000 through 2009.
verb (foll by to; takes an infinitive or implied infinitive)
- 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)
- 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
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. n.2“nothing, zero,” faulty separation of a naught (see naught; cf. also adder for the separation problem). 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. n.“zero, cipher,” 1844, probably a misdivision of a nought (see nought; for misdivision, see N); meaning probably influenced by aught “anything.”