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A Word A Day — aught

August 08, 2012

Word of the Day

  • aught
  • audio pronunciation
  • \AWT\


: anything
: all, everything

"Xury said it was a lion, and it might be so for aught I know." — From Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe

"He dropped, dead, into the shallow water, but I was too late for aught but revenge." — From Judson Roberts' 2011 novel Viking Warrior


"If you know aught which does behove my knowledge / Thereof to be inform'd, imprison't not / In ignorant concealment," Polixenes begs Camillo in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, employing the "anything" sense of "aught." Shakespeare didn't coin the pronoun "aught," which has been a part of the English language since before the 12th century, but he did put it to frequent use. Writers today may be less likely to use "aught" than were their literary predecessors, but the pronoun does continue to turn up occasionally. "Aught" can also be a noun meaning "zero," and the phrase "the aughts" has been bandied about as a proposed label for the decade that began in the year 2000.

From Merriam-Webster Online at

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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.