eth·i·cal | \ˈe-thi-kəl \
variants: or less commonly ethic \ˈe-thik \

Definition of ethical 

1 : of or relating to ethics ethical theories

2 : involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval ethical judgments

3 : conforming to accepted standards of conduct ethical behavior

4 of a drug : restricted to sale only on a doctor's prescription

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Other Words from ethical

ethicality \ˌe-thə-ˈka-lə-tē \ noun
ethically \ˈe-thi-k(ə-)lē \ adverb
ethicalness \ˈe-thi-kəl-nəs \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for ethical

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

Examples of ethical in a Sentence

Some doctors feel that this procedure is not medically ethical. the ethical behavior expected of every member of the police force

Recent Examples on the Web

The model and social media genius took to Twitter to point out the logistical flaws in Trump's plan, since the moral and ethical flaws are more than obvious. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Chrissy Teigen Slammed Trump for His Recent Elizabeth Warren and #MeToo Comments," 7 July 2018 Our responsibility is to make intellectual, emotional, ethical, spiritual preparations for what's to come. NBC News, "What 'Arrival' got right about communicating with space aliens," 6 July 2018 Frederickson is a vegan and Kenneally was an ethical vegetarian, which also helped them connect. Leor Galil, Chicago Reader, "Music / RIP Remembering soundman and musician Patrick Kenneally, who nurtured scenes in Chicago and Portland," 18 June 2018 Pruitt is under fire for leaning on Environmental Protection Agency employees to run personal errands and help secure a job for his wife, the latest in a string of ethical missteps to come to light about the former Oklahoma attorney general. Jennifer A Dlouhy,, "Trump Says He’s ‘Not Happy’ With EPA’s Pruitt Amid Ethics Scandals," 15 June 2018 Defense advocates argue that prosecutors’ subsequent ethical breaches warrant dismissing thousands of drug convictions connected to the lab, as well as monetary sanctions against the attorney general’s office to deter future misconduct. Shawn Musgrave,, "Attorney General Healey promises changes after drug lab scandal," 24 Apr. 2018 The sense that McCabe's exit was about the Russia probe and not his own alleged ethical breach was compounded by his own extraordinary statement on Friday night. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Manic morning raises stakes for Mueller probe," 17 Mar. 2018 As the subject of at least 13 federal investigations on his spending and managing practices, Pruitt has been laden with ethical controversies since his tenure began last year. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "Lake County environmentalists still on guard after Pruitt leaves EPA: 'We have to move forward with the fight'," 6 July 2018 This idea of cleansing society of immigrants marks the dismantling of higher ideals, pluralist values, and ethical standards. Amro Ali, Time, "Denmark’s “Ghetto” Policies Are an Ominous Sign That Liberal Europe Is Starting to Unravel at the Seams," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ethical.' 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 ethical

circa 1573, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ethical

Middle English etik, from Latin ethicus, from Greek ēthikos, from ēthos character — more at sib

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Statistics for ethical

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for ethical

The first known use of ethical was circa 1573

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More Definitions for ethical



English Language Learners Definition of ethical

: involving questions of right and wrong behavior : relating to ethics

: following accepted rules of behavior : morally right and good


eth·i·cal | \ˈe-thi-kəl \

Kids Definition of ethical

1 : involving questions of right and wrong : relating to ethics ethical issues

2 : following accepted rules of behavior We expect ethical treatment of animals.


eth·i·cal | \ˈeth-i-kəl \
variants: also ethic \-ik \

Medical Definition of ethical 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct

2 of a drug : restricted to sale only on a doctor's prescription

Other Words from ethical

ethically \ˈeth-i-k(ə-)lē \ adverb



Medical Definition of ethical (Entry 2 of 2)

: an ethical drug

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eth·i·cal | \ˈe-thi-kəl \

Legal Definition of ethical 

1 : of or relating to ethics

2 : conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct

Other Words from ethical

ethically adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on ethical

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ethical

Spanish Central: Translation of ethical

Nglish: Translation of ethical for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ethical for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ethical

What made you want to look up ethical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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