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

Yet the embattled cabinet secretary has remained in Mr. Trump's good graces despite being the target of at least 10 investigations into various potential ethical violations. Arden Farhi, CBS News, "EPA: Pruitt spent $3.5 million on security during first year in office," 25 May 2018 The inspector general has the power to investigate ethical and criminal wrongdoing by state employees, but must refer the case to a prosecutor before charges can be filed. Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, "Special prosecutor sought in Curtis Hill groping investigation," 10 July 2018 Although well-intentioned, the proposal raises multiple ethical and legal questions. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The perils of using DNA tests to reunite migrant children with their parents.," 22 June 2018 White supremacy is the belief that white people are smarter, more ethical and more capable than any other race of people (especially black folks) and should therefore control most of society. Jason Johnson, The Root, "I Finally See It: Democrats Don’t Hate Trump As Much as They Love White Supremacy," 21 June 2018 Shakespeare’s frequent treatment of ethical and legal questions is marked far more by its ambiguity and unresolved tensions than by clear directives and propositions—this is part of what makes his work simultaneously playful and vexing. Katie Kosma, Longreads, "Frailty, Thy Name Is Immigration Control," 15 June 2018 This would be more ethical and less exploitative, and might well produce just as many great stars, at a much lower personal price. Laurent Dubois, The Atlantic, "How Not to Scout for Soccer Talent," 14 June 2018 Pruitt and his aides have steadfastly defended the administrator's conduct as ethical and above-board. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "Democrats ask Justice, FBI for criminal corruption probe into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt," 8 June 2018 The broad ethical and moral issues raised by crowdfunding are manifest. Michael Hiltzik,, "That heartwarming story about a kid crowdfunding for his infant brother defines what's wrong with U.S. healthcare," 4 June 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

10 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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).


noxious or harmful

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