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

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 Jay will listen, outwork anyone, and will act with the highest of ethical standards. Houston Chronicle, "Letters to the Editor," 30 June 2018 Faced with angry alumni and a scornful public, Nikias managed to settle the crisis with calls for more transparency and tougher ethical standards. Thomas Curwen,, "Nikias' tenure as USC president was marked by growth and scandal," 26 May 2018 His job approval in Gallup (44%) is markedly higher than the percentage of people who believe his administration operates on high ethical standards. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "People think Donald Trump's administration is the least ethical in modern history," 25 May 2018 Such quandaries might suggest that ethical issues should be left to other social scientists. The Economist, "Economists focus too little on what people really care about," 3 May 2018 The journal also issued a statement defending their ethical standards and decision to publish. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Despite alien theories and novel mutations, the real Ata puzzle may be ethical," 18 Apr. 2018 Under the city charter, violating the city's ethical standards of conduct can result in a range of punishments, including prosecution. Joe Guillen, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit tax official reprimanded for second job in real estate," 10 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

1 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for ethical

The first known use of ethical was circa 1573

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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

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the setting in which something occurs

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