Boughten is an archaic participial inflection of the verb to buy. It was once a fairly common colloquial form—it was used to describe something bought instead of homemade—and it still appears occasionally, but it is widely seen as incorrect and might be considered out of place in formal writing. This does not mean that those who use it in their speech are ignorant or poorly informed.

For instance, the word appears in these old works of literature:

But I interrupted him by telling him truly that no hired tears would fall on his beloved face if I outlived him, and no boughten groans would be hearn. [Around the World with Josiah Allen’s Wife by Marietta Holley]
He relied / On Henriot’s aid–the Commune’s villain friendship, / And Henriot’s boughten succours. [The Fall of Robespierre by Samuel Taylor Coleridge]
The tip is strong enough, if it hasn’t rotted, and she handles almost as good as a boughten rod. [The Young Alaskans On the Missouri by Emerson Hough]

Although boughten lives on through certain dialects and the occasional slip of the tongue (when the speaker forms boughten by analogy with participles like broken, frozen, and given), it has now become rare and does not often appear in formal writing or in edited publications. Bought is widely used for the past-tense, past-perfect, and past-participial forms of buy—for example:

Mr. Shahzad bought the vehicle from a Connecticut woman. [NY Times]

Overseas investors have bought 303.1 billion rupees of Indian equities this year. [Business Week]

Want better flavor without losing the convenience of your favorite store-bought meals and sauces? [Philly Burbs]

4 thoughts on “Boughten”

  1. Thank you for clearing this up. My husband, who was raised in upstate NY by a mother who is a member of the DAR and a father who has a PHD, has been contending for 25 years that it was not a word at all. He corrects me when I mistakenly use it in informal speech at home. It’s embarrassing to be corrected but  I have always bowed to his superior knowledge of English.

    I  was raised in a city North of Boston by parents who were 1st generation Americans. They both learned English when they entered the first grade. I picked up all of my basic words and pronunciations from my parents and childhood friends in MA.

    Carol, now living in San Jose, CA

  2. I was surprised to learn this was even a word just like I was surprised to learn that orientated was a word, both of them sounding so much like fractured english.

  3. I have heard “boughten” often from older country people in the U.S., especially as contrasted with “homemade,” e.g., “boughten bread.”

  4. I have a friend who I’ve noticed occasionally foring “caughten” for a past participle of “catch” in a similar way. E.g. “I haven’t caughten anybody sneaking in”. I figured he was subconsciously noticing -en as the common past participle ending for irregular verbs derived from historic strong verbs, and applying it to other irregular verbs derived from historic weak verbs.


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