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Oughties vs. Noughties: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson & Janet White || Updated on March 4, 2024
The "oughties" and "noughties" are both terms referring to the decade of the 2000s, with "noughties" being the more commonly used term, especially in British English.

Key Differences

The terms "oughties" and "noughties" are informal names for the decade spanning the years 2000 to 2009. Both terms attempt to capture a way to refer to this decade in a manner similar to how we might say "nineties" for the 1990s or "eighties" for the 1980s. The challenge with the 2000s lies in the lack of a universally accepted, catchy name that fits the pattern established by previous decades.
"Oughties" comes from the word "ought," an archaic term for zero, suggesting the years '00 to '09. It tries to adhere to the traditional naming convention but is less commonly used, likely because "ought" is not widely understood or used in contemporary English to represent zero. On the other hand, "noughties" uses "nought," a British term for zero, to achieve the same goal. It has gained more traction, particularly in British English, as a playful and widely recognized way to refer to the 2000s. The term "noughties" cleverly incorporates the notion of zero (or "nought") while maintaining a phonetic similarity to the way other decades are named.
While "oughties" emphasizes a more archaic or formal linguistic root, "noughties" leans into a more accessible and somewhat whimsical naming convention. The preference between the two often depends on regional language differences, with "noughties" being preferred in regions where British English influences are stronger.
The struggle to name the 2000s in a succinct and catchy way reflects broader cultural challenges in defining a decade that was marked by significant technological, social, and political changes. The emergence of digital technology, social media, and global connectivity during this decade was transformative, yet linguistically, capturing its essence in a term like "noughties" or "oughties" underscores the playful yet imprecise effort to categorize historical time periods.
Both terms, while attempting to provide a memorable label for the decade, highlight the linguistic creativity involved in naming periods of time. They serve as cultural markers, encapsulating the challenge of defining a decade that was pivotal in shaping the 21st century's early years.

Comparison Chart


Refers to the decade of 2000-2009.
Refers to the decade of 2000-2009.


From "ought," an archaic term for zero.
From "nought," a British term for zero.


Less common, with a more formal tone.
More commonly used, especially in British English.

Linguistic Root

Archaic English.
Modern, accessible English.


Limited, due to less contemporary use of "ought" for zero.
Higher, due to the playful and easy recognition of "nought."

Oughties and Noughties Definitions


Reflects early 21st-century changes.
The oughties saw the rise of social media.


Embraced in British English.
In the UK, the 2000s are fondly called the noughties.


Denotes the years 2000 to 2009.
Iconic pop culture emerged in the oughties.


Captures the turn of the century.
Fashion in the noughties was eclectic and bold.


A term for the 2000s decade.
The internet revolution truly took off in the oughties.


Accessible linguistic play on zero.
Nought makes the noughties easily recognizable.


Seldom used in casual conversation.
Few people refer to the 2000s as the oughties.


A popular term for the 2000s.
The noughties were defined by digital innovation.


Uses an archaic reference for zero.
Ought in the oughties is less understood today.


Frequently used in media and conversation.
Many reminisce about the noughties' music scene.


A decade running from the first year of a century to the tenth.


The first decade of a century: from 1900 to 1909, 2000 to 2009, etc.


Is "oughties" a commonly used term?

"Oughties" is less common and is based on an older term for zero, making it less accessible to contemporary audiences.

Why are the 2000s called the noughties?

The term "noughties" is derived from "nought," a term for zero, playfully naming the decade 2000-2009.

How do people decide which term to use for the 2000s?

The choice often depends on regional language influences, personal preference, and the term's recognizability in casual conversation.

Will future decades face similar naming challenges?

Each new decade brings its own linguistic challenges for naming, depending on cultural shifts and linguistic trends at the time.

Which term is preferred, noughties or oughties?

"Noughties" is generally preferred, especially in British English, due to its playful tone and easier recognition.

How does the naming of decades affect historical perception?

The names given to decades can shape our collective memory and understanding of historical periods, highlighting certain characteristics or cultural trends.

Can "oughties" and "noughties" be used interchangeably?

While they can be used interchangeably to refer to the 2000s decade, "noughties" is more commonly accepted and understood.

What role did music and entertainment play in the noughties?

The noughties saw the emergence of digital music, reality TV, and blockbuster movie franchises that reshaped entertainment consumption and production.

What cultural shifts define the noughties?

The noughties were marked by the rise of the internet, social media, and significant global events that shaped modern society.

Are there other names for the 2000s?

While "noughties" and "oughties" are popular, some simply refer to this period as "the 2000s" for clarity.

Did technology influence the naming of the noughties?

The digital revolution of the noughties influenced many aspects of culture, including how the decade is linguistically characterized.

How did fashion evolve during the noughties?

Fashion in the noughties was characterized by a mix of retro revivals, fast fashion, and the beginning of online shopping, influencing trends and accessibility.

Are there specific books or films that encapsulate the noughties?

Works like "The Social Network" and the Harry Potter series capture significant aspects of the noughties' culture, technology, and imagination.

How do the noughties compare to previous decades in terms of cultural impact?

The noughties were a pivotal decade for technology and globalization, influencing culture, communication, and society in profound ways, much like the significant cultural shifts seen in previous decades.

How did global events in the noughties shape the world?

Events like the September 11 attacks, the financial crisis of 2008, and the expansion of the European Union significantly impacted global politics, economics, and culture during the noughties.

What makes the noughties distinct from the 1990s or 2010s?

The noughties were a transition period marked by the advent of the digital age, distinct from the 1990s' pre-internet culture and the 2010s' full immersion in digital and social media.

What technological advancements define the noughties?

The rise of smartphones, social media platforms, and broadband internet were landmark technological advancements of the noughties.

Why might some people prefer not to use "oughties" or "noughties"?

Some may find these terms informal or colloquial, preferring "the 2000s" for its clarity and neutrality.

What impact did the noughties have on education and learning?

The expansion of the internet and digital resources transformed educational methods, access to information, and learning platforms in the noughties.

How did social attitudes and values change during the noughties?

The noughties experienced shifts towards more progressive attitudes on social issues, driven by increased global communication and media influence.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Co-written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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