moral

adjective
mor·​al | \ˈmȯr-əl, ˈmär-\

Definition of moral 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical moral judgments

b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior a moral poem

c : conforming to a standard of right behavior took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination

d : sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment a moral obligation

e : capable of right and wrong action a moral agent

2 : probable though not proved : virtual a moral certainty

3 : perceptual or psychological rather than tangible or practical in nature or effect a moral victory moral support

moral

noun
mor·​al | \ˈmȯr-əl, ˈmär-; sense 3 is mə-ˈral\

Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : the moral significance or practical lesson (as of a story) The moral of the story is to be satisfied with what you have.

b : a passage pointing out usually in conclusion the lesson to be drawn from a story

2 morals plural

a : moral practices or teachings : modes of conduct an authoritative code of morals has force and effect when it expresses the settled customs of a stable society— Walter Lippmann

b : ethics the science of morals endeavors to divide men into the good and the bad— J. W. Krutch

3 : morale The casualties did not shake the moral of the soldiers.

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Other Words from moral

Adjective

morally \ -​ə-​lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for moral

Adjective

moral, ethical, virtuous, righteous, noble mean conforming to a standard of what is right and good. moral implies conformity to established sanctioned codes or accepted notions of right and wrong. the basic moral values of a community ethical may suggest the involvement of more difficult or subtle questions of rightness, fairness, or equity. committed to the highest ethical principles virtuous implies moral excellence in character. not a religious person, but virtuous nevertheless righteous stresses guiltlessness or blamelessness and often suggests the sanctimonious. wished to be righteous before God and the world noble implies moral eminence and freedom from anything petty, mean, or dubious in conduct and character. had the noblest of reasons for seeking office

Ethics vs Morals: Is there a difference?

Ethics and morals are both used in the plural and are often regarded as synonyms, but there is some distinction in how they are used.

Morals often describes one's particular values concerning what is right and what is wrong:

It would go against my morals to help you cheat on the test.

He appears to view himself as a kind of culture warrior, striking out against the crumbling morals of modern society.
Jonathan Goldsbie, Now Toronto, 16 Oct. 2014

While ethics can refer broadly to moral principles, one often sees it applied to questions of correct behavior within a relatively narrow area of activity:

Our class had a debate over the ethics of genetic testing.

Anybody, it seemed, could make the music -- if they couldn't play guitar, they could push a button -- and nobody worried about the ethics of appropriating riffs.
Jennifer Foote, Newsweek, 23 July 1990

In addition, morals usually connotes an element of subjective preference, while ethics tends to suggest aspects of universal fairness and the question of whether or not an action is responsible:

Perhaps you don’t like Kim Kardashian, or her family, or her morals don’t align with yours, or you just think it’s weird that she might have had some plastic surgery, likes to apply makeup in a really complicated way and named her kid “Saint.”
Sarah Boboltz, The Huffington Post, 12 Oct. 2016

The Frenches, both professors in The Media School, focused on the ethics of making medical decisions for a child who could not express her own wishes yet…
Chris Mura, Indiana Daily Student, 18 Oct. 2016

Examples of moral in a Sentence

Adjective

Nor did these lawyers and bankers walk about suffused with guilt. They had the moral equivalent of teflon on their soul. Church on Sunday, foreclose on Monday. — Norman Mailer, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002 … trip-wire sensitivity to perceived insult often leads to unjustifiable firings and other moral and legal imbroglios. — John McWhorter, New Republic, 14 Jan. 2002 The modern liberal state was premised on the notion that in the interests of political peace, government would not take sides among the differing moral claims made by religion and traditional culture. — Francis Fukuyama, Atlantic, May 1999 It was our desire for a moral world, the deep wish to assert the existence of goodness, that generated, as it continues to do, political fantasy. — Arthur Miller, Timebends, 1987 The author avoids making moral judgments. Each story teaches an important moral lesson. He felt that he had a moral obligation to help the poor. We're confident she has the moral fiber to make the right decision. Their behavior was not moral. Animals are not moral creatures and are not responsible for their actions.

Noun

The moral of the story is to be satisfied with what you have. The moral here is: pay attention to the warning lights in your car. Socrates was accused of corrupting the morals of the youth of Athens. The author points to recent cases of fraud as evidence of the lack of morals in the business world.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Yanmei Xie of Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm in Beijing, says China wants to be seen as the defender of the global trade order and so claim the moral high ground. The Economist, "In its trade war with America, China dials down the hype," 12 July 2018 Plenty of consumers may also want to choose one business over another on moral grounds. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "The Red Hen and the Weaponization of Yelp," 26 June 2018 Our unspeakable treatment of migrant children and flippant disregard for their safety should invoke moral outrage. Jenn M. Jackson, Teen Vogue, "Separating Children From Parents is Shocking And Inhumane — It Is Also An American Tradition," 22 June 2018 The tragedy is not just that Manne is right, but that pointing out the obvious moral and ethical sinkholes in Peterson’s grab-bag of resentful bromides should merit a two-page review by one of the greatest feminist philosophers of her generation. Laurie Penny, Longreads, "Peterson’s Complaint," 12 July 2018 Our campaign has been really effective in refining and providing a very clear moral and economic voice for what must and should be done. Bridget Read, Vogue, "28-Year-Old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Might Just Be the Future of the Democratic Party," 25 June 2018 And even if his persona was all tattoo and all bad boy, Bourdain was deeply moral, and deeply compassionate. Corby Kummer, The Atlantic, "Remembering Anthony Bourdain," 8 June 2018 How desperate are these times, that refusing to quit in the face of a barrage of insults from your unhinged boss suddenly looks like moral courage? Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "This Week in Washington: One Kim Visits, Another Writes, and the Despicable Behavior of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens," 3 June 2018 But the scandal has spread far beyond El Bosque and has implicated the Chilean hierarchy, which has sought to place the blame on the church's dramatic loss of moral authority on the Karadima scandal alone. Nicole Winfield, chicagotribune.com, "Pope Francis digs deeper into roots of Chile sex abuse scandal," 2 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But if morals and ethics were the only things at play, the show would have ended long ago — or wouldn’t have been revived in the first place. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Why ABC had to cancel Roseanne," 29 May 2018 Salander injects into Larsson’s matrix of morals some of the anarchy of children’s literature, and that was by design. Alice Bolin, Longreads, "The Daughter as Detective," 26 June 2018 Their legal rulings and attempts to police morals made the kingdom increasingly intolerant, setting back the gradual opening up that had occurred in the 1960s and ’70s. Adel Al-toraifi, WSJ, "The Saudis Take On Radical Islam," 19 Mar. 2018 Daniels has taught us much about their character and morals, too. Eugene Robinson, Anchorage Daily News, "Stormy Daniels beat Trump at his own game," 9 Mar. 2018 Both morals are too trite to qualify as revelations. Shunji Iwai, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Fireworks,’ Second Chances, but No Magic," 3 July 2018 Harrits said no matter Girl or Boy Scouts, both teach kids about leadership, having good morals and being kind and considerate. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Young and old parents alike say it's not taking the 'boy' out of scouting, but putting scouting into the boys and girls that matters," 8 May 2018 And a tip of the cap to the high morals of an angler who made an improbable find twice over. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: Extraordinary musky fishing tale, verified and true, comes to happy ending," 11 July 2018 Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Armie Hammer, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt and Omari Hardwick, the film centers on a telemarketer whose unusual methods for professional success put his personal morals at odds. Randall Roberts, latimes.com, "Box office: 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' skitters to the top, 'Incredibles 2' leaps past $500 million," 8 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'moral.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of moral

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

circa 1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for moral

Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin moralis, from mor-, mos custom

Noun

see moral entry 1

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Statistics for moral

Last Updated

2 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for moral

The first known use of moral was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for moral

moral

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of moral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior

: based on what you think is right and good

: considered right and good by most people : agreeing with a standard of right behavior

moral

noun

English Language Learners Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

: a lesson that is learned from a story or an experience

morals : proper ideas and beliefs about how to behave in a way that is considered right and good by most people

moral

adjective
mor·​al | \ˈmȯr-əl \

Kids Definition of moral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : concerned with or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior moral problems a moral judgment

2 : able to teach a lesson of how people should behave a moral story

3 : good entry 1 sense 13, virtuous They lead a moral life.

4 : able to tell right from wrong Humans are moral beings.

Other Words from moral

morally adverb morally wrong behavior

moral

noun

Kids Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the lesson to be learned from a story or experience

2 morals plural : ways of behaving : moral conduct They have a high standard of morals.

3 morals plural : teachings or rules of right behavior

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Comments on moral

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