moral

adjective
mor·​al | \ ˈmȯr-əl How to pronounce moral (audio) , ˈmär-\

Definition of moral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical moral judgments
b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior a moral poem
c : conforming to a standard of right behavior took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
d : sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment a moral obligation
e : capable of right and wrong action a moral agent
2 : probable though not proved : virtual a moral certainty
3 : perceptual or psychological rather than tangible or practical in nature or effect a moral victory moral support

moral

noun
mor·​al | \ ˈmȯr-əl How to pronounce moral (audio) , ˈmär-; sense 3 is mə-ˈral How to pronounce moral (audio) \

Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : the moral significance or practical lesson (as of a story) The moral of the story is to be satisfied with what you have.
b : a passage pointing out usually in conclusion the lesson to be drawn from a story
2 morals plural
a : moral practices or teachings : modes of conduct an authoritative code of morals has force and effect when it expresses the settled customs of a stable society— Walter Lippmann
b : ethics the science of morals endeavors to divide men into the good and the bad— J. W. Krutch
3 : morale The casualties did not shake the moral of the soldiers.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from moral

Adjective

morally \ ˈmȯr-​ə-​lē How to pronounce morally (audio) , ˈmär-​ \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for moral

Adjective

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

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

Examples of moral in a Sentence

Adjective Nor did these lawyers and bankers walk about suffused with guilt. They had the moral equivalent of teflon on their soul. Church on Sunday, foreclose on Monday. — Norman Mailer, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002 … trip-wire sensitivity to perceived insult often leads to unjustifiable firings and other moral and legal imbroglios. — John McWhorter, New Republic, 14 Jan. 2002 The modern liberal state was premised on the notion that in the interests of political peace, government would not take sides among the differing moral claims made by religion and traditional culture. — Francis Fukuyama, Atlantic, May 1999 It was our desire for a moral world, the deep wish to assert the existence of goodness, that generated, as it continues to do, political fantasy. — Arthur Miller, Timebends, 1987 The author avoids making moral judgments. Each story teaches an important moral lesson. He felt that he had a moral obligation to help the poor. We're confident she has the moral fiber to make the right decision. Their behavior was not moral. Animals are not moral creatures and are not responsible for their actions. Noun The moral of the story is to be satisfied with what you have. The moral here is: pay attention to the warning lights in your car. Socrates was accused of corrupting the morals of the youth of Athens. The author points to recent cases of fraud as evidence of the lack of morals in the business world.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective During their formative years, Joe made sure that their moral fibers were enriched by both Archie Bunker and Benny Hill. Joelle Goldstein, PEOPLE.com, "82-Year-Old Prankster Dies and His Family Gives Him a Hilarious Obituary to Send Him Off," 11 Sep. 2019 Dental experts started framing the question of dental care as a social, moral, and even patriotic issue. National Geographic, "How your toothbrush became a part of the plastic crisis," 14 June 2019 In his work, at least, Ibsen did not provide artists any exemption from moral responsibilities. Andrew Katzenstein, Harper's magazine, "The Radical Conservative," 16 Sep. 2019 Insisting that Americans had a moral obligation to relieve suffering around the world, the two spearheaded massive fund-raising campaigns to assist the afflicted. Heather D. Curtis, The Conversation, "How American Christian media promoted charity abroad," 3 Sep. 2019 Our time is increasingly defined by the developments of digital technology, with untold impacts and unclear chains of moral responsibilities, and philosophy has stepped up in attempting to comprehend them. Alexis Papazoglou, WIRED, "Silicon Valley's Secret Philosophers Should Share Their Work," 27 Aug. 2019 Judgment at Nuremburg was groundbreaking for its frank tackling of war crimes and moral responsibility, as well as its being one of the first mainstream films to show footage from the Allied liberation of Nazi concentration camps. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, "8 essential Judy Garland movies that aren't The Wizard of Oz," 23 Aug. 2019 The reaction to his arrest has been unsparing, hitting a collective nerve about moral responsibility and failure to act in the midst of a horrific attack. oregonlive.com, "He’ll go down in history as a coward, but is he a criminal?," 16 June 2019 More sci-fi than supernatural, Dollhouse dealt with a lot of the same moral themes as Lost. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "Netflix's The I-Land tries (and fails) to be the next Lost — just like these 11 other shows," 14 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In fact, etiquette does not care, this being a question of morals, not manners. Judith Martin, The Mercury News, "Miss Manners: Does an unmarried couple deserve a housewarming?," 12 Sep. 2019 That goes for the Catholic morals and ethics that shaped me, too. New York Times, "When Theater is a Religious Experience," 2 July 2019 There are few operatic works so cheerfully indifferent to morals as Così fan tutte, and it was largely deplored and rarely performed through most of the nineteenth century. The New York Review of Books, "Larry Wolff," 27 Sep. 2018 As men of morals who define themselves against liberalism’s crassness, materialism, and lack of self-restraint, they either support or show sympathy for a presidential caricature of the Seven Deadly Sins. Alexander Zaitchik, The New Republic, "Is Josh Hawley For Real?," 25 July 2019 The mural of Washington’s life on a high school wall should encourage the school’s teachers to address its meaning to their students within the context of today’s morals. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Teachers should discuss mural’s meaning in class," 12 July 2019 Futurists celebrated the beauty of machines, the morals of might, and the syntax of babble. K.n.c., The Economist, "The radical politics of futurists and fascists—and us, here, today," 19 July 2019 Bell ultimately betrays his morals, bribes players to come to his school and then does battle with his demons. Tim Rohan, SI.com, "Western Union: A Blue Chips Oral History," 8 July 2019 Policing the morals' of Phoenix The coffeehouse raid wasn’t the only one of its kind in Phoenix. Kyra Haas, azcentral, "Phoenix's LGBTQ spaces faced raids 'policing morals' of city. The Stonewall riots helped change that," 28 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'moral.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of moral

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

circa 1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for moral

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin moralis, from mor-, mos custom

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about moral

Statistics for moral

Last Updated

2 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for moral

The first known use of moral was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for moral

moral

adjective
How to pronounce moral (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of moral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior
: based on what you think is right and good
: considered right and good by most people : agreeing with a standard of right behavior

moral

noun
How to pronounce moral (audio) How to pronounce moral (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

: a lesson that is learned from a story or an experience
: proper ideas and beliefs about how to behave in a way that is considered right and good by most people

moral

adjective
mor·​al | \ ˈmȯr-əl How to pronounce moral (audio) \

Kids Definition of moral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : concerned with or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior moral problems a moral judgment
2 : able to teach a lesson of how people should behave a moral story
3 : good entry 1 sense 13, virtuous They lead a moral life.
4 : able to tell right from wrong Humans are moral beings.

Other Words from moral

morally adverb morally wrong behavior

moral

noun

Kids Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the lesson to be learned from a story or experience
2 morals plural : ways of behaving : moral conduct They have a high standard of morals.
3 morals plural : teachings or rules of right behavior

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on moral

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for moral

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with moral

Spanish Central: Translation of moral

Nglish: Translation of moral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of moral for Arabic Speakers

Comments on moral

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

WORD OF THE DAY

not being in agreement or harmony

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!