“nought” and “naught” – difference

As far as the pronunciation is concerned there is no difference. Both words are pronounced like the word “not”. Careful users of the language use “nought” to refer to the number “zero”. The word is used mostly in British English; Americans do not employ it at all.

*Our star batsman scored a nought in the first innings. *How many noughts are there in one million?

Both “naught” and “nought” can be used to mean “nothing”. One way to remember the difference between the two words is that the word meaning zero is spelt with an “o” — which looks like zero! When you make an effort to do something and it doesn’t succeed, you can say that your efforts have come to naught/nought.

*His attempts to overthrow the President came to naught. *All her efforts came to naught.

Some people think that “naught” and “nought” are old fashioned. Did you know that “naughty” and “naught” are related? The original meaning of a “naughty child” was a “good for nothing child”.

The Hindu- ‘Know Your English’ Series, August 23, 2004


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