1 [awt]
auxiliary verb
(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.

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

1. See must1.

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.
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2 [awt]
noun, adverb


3 [awt]
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
aught or archaic, literary or (used with a negative or in conditional or interrogative sentences or clauses) ought1 (ɔːt)
1.  anything at all; anything whatever (esp in the phrase for aught I know)
2.  dialect in any least part; to any degree
[Old English āwiht, from ā ever, ay1 + wiht thing; see wight1]
ought or archaic, literary or (used with a negative or in conditional or interrogative sentences or clauses) ought1
[Old English āwiht, from ā ever, ay1 + wiht thing; see wight1]

aught or ought2 (ɔːt)
a less common word for nought
ought or ought2

ought1 (ɔːt)
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
3.  (usually with reference to future time) to express probability or expectation: you ought to finish this work by Friday
4.  to express a desire or wish on the part of the speaker: you ought to come next week
usage  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

ought2 (ɔːt)
pron, —adv
a variant spelling of aught

ought3 (ɔːt)
a less common word for nought
[C19: mistaken division of a nought as an ought; see nought]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. ahte, pt. 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 M.E. "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 E.Anglian dialect from c.1825. As an auxiliary verb expressing duty or obligation (c.1175, the main modern use), it represents the past subjunctive.

"zero, cipher," 1844, probably a misdivision of a nought (see nought), meaning probably influenced by aught "anything" (q.v.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Whatever is the defining idea of the next decade, it ought to be free.
If the oceans came primarily from comets, the proportion ought to be closer.
There ought to be an immediate ban on the use of chimpanzees.
There ought to be more supervision of the fast-food joints.
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