ethic

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noun eth·ic \ˈe-thik\

Definition of ethic

  1. 1 ethics plural in form but singular or plural in construction :  the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

  2. 2a :  a set of moral principles :  a theory or system of moral values <the present-day materialistic ethic> <an old-fashioned work ethic> —often used in plural but singular or plural in construction <an elaborate ethics> <Christian ethics>b ethics plural in form but singular or plural in construction :  the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics>c :  a guiding philosophyd :  a consciousness of moral importance <forge a conservation ethic>

  3. 3 ethics plural :  a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness) <debated the ethics of human cloning>

Examples of ethic in a sentence

  1. Ethics is his chosen field of study.

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

Origin and Etymology of ethic

Middle English ethik, from Medieval French ethique, from Latin ethice, from Greek ēthikē, from ēthikos


First Known Use: 14th century



ETHIC Defined for English Language Learners

ethic

play
noun eth·ic \ˈe-thik\

Definition of ethic for English Language Learners

  • : rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad

  • ethics : an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong

  • : a belief that something is very important


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