ethical

adjective

eth·​i·​cal ˈe-thi-kəl How to pronounce ethical (audio)
variants or less commonly ethic
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
ethicality noun
ethically adverb
ethicalness 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

Example Sentences

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 sanctuary is conducting the research in accordance with its own strict ethical standards, which include giving the animals the right to choose whether or not to participate in studies. Emily Anthes Lauren Petracca, New York Times, 22 Nov. 2022 The chick virus was injected into students at a state school for children with neurological and central nervous system problems, a group whose use by the lab reflected a time of looser ethical standards about test subjects. Richard Sandomir, Chicago Tribune, 10 Nov. 2022 Published in 1991, the Common Rule outlines basic requirements for obtaining informed consent and ensuring that research proposals comply with ethical standards. WIRED, 2 Nov. 2022 Also high on the list—especially for millennials and Gen Z—are diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and ethical corporate behavior. Melanie Marten, Forbes, 24 June 2022 Robinson created and occupied the position of director of diversity, inclusion, and ethical technology at the group Technology for Social Good. Isabela Rocha, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Nov. 2022 Musk also cut employees across Twitter’s human rights, product trust and safety, and ethical AI divisions, and platform safety seems to already be unraveling. Megan Mccluskey, Time, 11 Nov. 2022 Accompanying the tremendous successes of the new genetic gold rush was the self-evident fact that the ability to restructure genetic material raised substantive philosophical and ethical issues. Adrian Woolfson, WSJ, 11 Nov. 2022 With Musk at the helm, Twitter slashed half its staff, including on its ethical AI, marketing and communication, search and public policy teams. Catherine Thorbecke, CNN, 10 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

circa 1573, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ethical was circa 1573

Dictionary Entries Near ethical

Cite this Entry

“Ethical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethical. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

ethical

adjective

eth·​i·​cal ˈeth-i-kəl How to pronounce ethical (audio)
1
: of or relating to ethics
2
a
: following accepted rules of conduct
b
: following professional standards of conduct
3
: sold only on a doctor's prescription
ethical drugs
ethically adverb

Medical Definition

ethical 1 of 2

adjective

eth·​i·​cal ˈeth-i-kəl How to pronounce ethical (audio)
variants also ethic
1
: conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct
2
of a drug : restricted to sale only on a doctor's prescription
ethically adverb

ethical

2 of 2

noun

: an ethical drug

Legal Definition

ethical

adjective

eth·​i·​cal ˈe-thi-kəl How to pronounce ethical (audio)
1
: of or relating to ethics
2
: conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct
ethically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on ethical

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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