Better aught than naught


Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect

My teacher told me that the exrepssion means "It's always better to have something than have nothing".

But I asked my friend, he told me this sound antiquated. I am wondering if this one means something to you?

Thanks a lot
  • Scalloper

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    It's still very common in the north of England, though you might find it spelt as "owt than nowt"

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    It's from Middle English and therefore not used today, but there are many literary and biblical uses of it, and a widely-read and educated individual (no offence intended, entangledbank!) will probably understand it.

    E.g. Othello in the eponymous play (Act 5, Scene 2): "An honourable murderer, if you will; / For naught I did in hate, but all in honour."

    "Naught" or "nought" (nothing) still survives (in British English, at least) as one of the words for the figure 0 (zero, nought, nothing, zilch etc) but it definitely sounds outdated.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    British English

    It's even a little stronger in meaning than your teacher said - it means "it is better to have anything at all than nothing".

    Unlike entangledbank I have heard it and read it in both forms (aught than naught, owt than nowt). Nowt means exactly the same as naught, but owt means anything rather than anything at all, but that is only a very small difference in meaning.

    The words aught and naught are certainly archaic, whereas owt and nowt are not.

    Given the post above, I should add that the spelling naught is archaic in British English, not the word - but according to the COED, that spelling is still a normal variant in American English.
    Last edited:


    New Member
    English - British
    Ee lad stop ya whingeing and tek what ye get - better owt than nowt!

    A common north-country dialect, all the way from the Midlands to Scotland though, I think, probably originally from Yorkshire? Better get a little something than nothing at all.
    < Previous | Next >