mor·al (môrəl, mŏr-)
1. Of or concerned with the judgment of right or wrong of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.
2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: a moral lesson.
3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: a moral life.
4. Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: a moral obligation.
5. Having psychological rather than physical or tangible effects: a moral victory; moral support.
6. Based on strong likelihood or firm conviction, rather than on the actual evidence: a moral certainty.
1. The lesson or principle contained in or taught by a fable, a story, or an event.
2. A concisely expressed precept or general truth; a maxim: likes to follow the moral "To each, his own."
3. morals Rules or habits of conduct, especially of sexual conduct, with reference to standards of right and wrong: a person of loose morals; a decline in the public morals.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin mōrālis, from mōs, mōr-, custom; see mē-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: moral, ethical, virtuous, righteous
These adjectives mean in accord with right or good conduct. Moral applies to personal character and behavior: "Our moral sense dictates a clearcut preference for these societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights" (Jimmy Carter).
Ethical stresses idealistic standards of right and wrong: "Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants" (Omar Bradley).
Virtuous implies moral excellence and loftiness of character: "The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous" (Frederick Douglass).
Righteous emphasizes moral uprightness; when it is applied to actions, reactions, or impulses, it often implies justifiable outrage: "It was righteous anger that motivated letters written by whistle-blowing employees" (Sandra P. Thomas).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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