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ought 1 (ôt)
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aux.v.
1. Used to indicate obligation or duty: You ought to work harder than that.
2. Used to indicate advisability or prudence: You ought to wear a raincoat.
3. Used to indicate desirability: You ought to have been there; it was great fun.
4. Used to indicate probability or likelihood: She ought to finish by next week.

[Middle English oughten, to be obliged to, from oughte, owned, from Old English āhte, past tense of āgan, to possess; see aik- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: Unlike other auxiliary verbs, ought usually takes to with its accompanying verb: We ought to go. Sometimes the accompanying verb is dropped if the meaning is clear: Should we begin soon? Yes, we ought to. In questions and negative sentences, especially those with contractions, to is also sometimes omitted: Oughtn't we be going soon? This omission of to, however, is not common in written English. Like must and auxiliary need, ought to does not change to show past tense: He said we ought to get moving along. · Usages such as He hadn't ought to come and She shouldn't ought to say that are common in many varieties of American English. They should be avoided in written English, however, in favor of the standard ought not to.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
ought 2 (ôt)
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pron. & adv.
Chiefly British
Variant of aught1.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
ought 3 (ôt)
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n.
Variant of aught2.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
ought 4 (ôt)
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v.
Obsolete
A past participle of owe.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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