\ ˈȯt How to pronounce ought (audio) \

Definition of ought

 (Entry 1 of 4)

used to express obligation ought to pay our debts , advisability ought to take care of yourself , natural expectation ought to be here by now , or logical consequence the result ought to be infinity


\ ˈȯ(ḵ)t How to pronounce ought (audio) \

Definition of ought (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb

1 chiefly Scotland : possess
2 chiefly Scotland : owe


\ ˈȯt How to pronounce ought (audio) \

Definition of ought (Entry 3 of 4)

: moral obligation : duty


\ ˈȯt How to pronounce ought (audio) , ˈät \

Definition of ought (Entry 4 of 4)

archaic spelling of

Examples of ought in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Auxiliary verb But the extended aerial combat sequences at the start and end of the film are genuinely impressive for a non-blockbuster, and ought to grab the attention of genre aficionados. Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2022 Several facts on the ground are indisputable and ought to be conceded: Prices are broadly higher right now (i.e., ... David L. Bahnsen, National Review, 7 Apr. 2022 John Mearsheimer, the realist international-relations theorist at the University of Chicago, has been arguing for years that NATO expansion was a mistake and that the United States ought to limit its conflicts with Putin in order to focus on China. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, 11 Feb. 2022 Housing policy expert Bradley agreed that many tenants who ought to be allowed to expunge evictions will still not be able to do so under this bill. Ko Lyn Cheang, The Indianapolis Star, 1 Feb. 2022 All this leering media coverage appearing to actively hope for another disaster is just unseemly, and really ought to stop. David Blackmon, Forbes, 20 Jan. 2022 The right to protest is essential to democracy, but there are limits—or there ought to be. Michael Taube, WSJ, 4 Jan. 2022 William Forman, an attorney for the church, countered that the arbitration agreement is an important condition of joining the church and receiving religious services, and ought to be upheld. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 2 Nov. 2021 This comes from my belief that gender ought not determine destiny. New York Times, 27 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Fortunately, swapping out these wheels for the correct units ought to be a pretty inexpensive affair. Greg Fink, Car and Driver, 17 June 2022 Building an entirely new world order of this sort ought to puff up dramas great and small. Hillary Kelly, The Atlantic, 16 June 2022 This ought to be done upfront and not somehow be a surprise that later on requires a revamping of the ML/DL per se. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 15 June 2022 Cloudiness ought not obscure recognition of Friday as a fine day, emblematic of its special place astride the seam between late spring and early summer. Martin Weil, Washington Post, 11 June 2022 But the correct response ought to be collective embarrassment that this gig has been unpaid for so long — and that so many more internships, both in Washington and across America, remain so. New York Times, 11 June 2022 Playful dressing ought to be encouraged, if not downright mandatory. Kathleen Walsh, Glamour, 9 June 2022 Losing with as much whimsy and mischief as Maurice Flitcroft—who applied to the British Open under such delightful aliases as Arnold Palmtree and Count Manfred von Hoffmenstal—ought to provide a model for us all. Kyle Smith, WSJ, 2 June 2022 Since these rising wages were driven largely by low-wage hotel and restaurant workers returning to work, the result ought to have been greater economic equality. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 31 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ought.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ought

Auxiliary verb

12th century, in the meaning defined above


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1678, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ought

Auxiliary verb

Middle English oughte (1st & 3rd singular present indicative), from oughte, 1st & 3rd singular past indicative & subjunctive of owen to own, owe — more at owe


Middle English oughte, 1st & 3rd singular past indicative of owen

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Time Traveler for ought

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The first known use of ought was in the 12th century

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Last Updated

19 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ought.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ought. Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for ought


helping verb
\ ˈȯt How to pronounce ought (audio) \

Kids Definition of ought

1 used to show duty You ought to obey your parents.
2 used to show what it would be wise to do You ought to take care of that cough.
3 used to show what is naturally expected They ought to be here by now.
4 used to show what is correct You ought to get nine for the answer.

More from Merriam-Webster on ought

Nglish: Translation of ought for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ought for Arabic Speakers


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