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aught

Aught, not to be confused with the helping verb "ought," is a word you'll hear most often in the U.K., where, in a very confusing manner, it can mean either everything or — wait for it — nothing at all.

Without getting too existential about things, it does seem kind of mind-blowing that a single word can stand in for the totality of the universe and the complete absence of matter, all at the same time. But the reason for the duality owes nothing to cosmic synchronicity. Rather, it came about through human error, as "an aught" sounds very much like "a nought," or "a zero." So no deep truth here, just another wrinkle in our linguistic evolution!

Definitions of aught
  1. noun
    a quantity of no importance
    synonyms: cipher, cypher, goose egg, nada, naught, nil, nix, nothing, null, zero, zilch, zip, zippo
    see moresee less
    types:
    nihil
    (Latin) nil; nothing (as used by a sheriff after an unsuccessful effort to serve a writ)
    type of:
    relative quantity
    a quantity relative to some purpose
Commonly confused words

Your Head Will Spin: "Naught," "Aught," and "Ought"

Three little words we just can't seem to get right, across the pond and at home.

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