\ 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 Philosophy teaches you to reason beyond your subjective opinions; the Socratic Method of argumentative dialogue stresses the importance of public speaking and to think quickly; To never accept what is as what ought to be. Teddy Mcdarrah, Forbes, 27 May 2021 Philadelphia's approach, and similar measures in other areas, including Virginia, inject a necessary dose of urgency while maintaining a focus on what ought to be the clear goal: keeping people in their homes. Star Tribune, 26 May 2021 As ought to be well known by now, claims of mass voter fraud are specious always and everywhere. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, 13 May 2021 Crook’s latest study suggests that there ought to be more focus on the welfare of these animals, which are currently unprotected in both research and industry in the U.S.. Anna Blaustein, Scientific American, 23 Apr. 2021 But Asian American leaders across the nation have been left grappling with what ought to be their path forward. BostonGlobe.com, 27 Mar. 2021 There ought to be a Tim Duncan Award because that's what Taylah did for us was do your job, screen, defend, run. Paul Boyd, Arkansas Online, 26 Mar. 2021 It's easily read, convenient, and ought to be the one, well, essential option buyers should seek out. John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver, 23 Mar. 2021 There is unfinished work from the previous administration’s effort to decide which military platforms and assets ought to be forward-deployed in the region and how and when they should be used. Roger Zakheim, National Review, 24 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb This is another way of acknowledging difference, with the recognition that some differences are not so desirable, but that differences from our own ways of thinking ought not to put a work on the Index of Forbidden Books. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 31 May 2021 Embassies should be small slices of U.S. outside our shores, and diplomats ought to promote the nation’s best attributes. Dave Seminara, WSJ, 31 May 2021 The public at large also remains on edge as to whether a murderer is still loose within their community and ought to have already been captured and detained. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 22 May 2021 The question is whether Republicans will rediscover the small 'c' conservative principle that freeways are not free and that those who benefit from infrastructure ought to pay for it. Aaron Klein, CNN, 14 May 2021 Homicidal maniacs may be beyond the reach of such cultural intervention, but the rest of us — witnesses of our society’s fragile pluralism — ought to be able to imagine lives that are too often disregarded even after tragedy. Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 2021 This open access is unwise and ought to be restricted. Tom Cotton, National Review, 17 Mar. 2021 There is no shortage of other pipeline projects Biden and his Cabinet ought to consider canceling. Nick Martin, The New Republic, 20 Jan. 2021 THE YEAR is 2021, and honestly there ought to be more robots. The Economist, 16 Jan. 2021

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.

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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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for ought

Last Updated

7 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ought.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ought. Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for ought



English Language Learners Definition of ought

used to indicate what is expected
used to say or suggest what should be done


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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