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.

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Women took care of not just the home, but also moral issues and religious issues. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "“For conservatives, by conservatives”: the rise of right-wing dating apps," 26 Dec. 2018 The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters. Brittney Cooper, Marie Claire, "Stacey Abrams Is Just Getting Started," 11 Mar. 2019 And in turn, what the moviegoing audience attaches to affluence — moral value? Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Crazy Rich Asians’ crazy rich success could mean more stories about less crazy rich Asian-American people.," 21 Dec. 2018 Sansa showed a remarkable ability to adapt to her horrible circumstances, developing a degree of moral flexibility that enabled her to do what was necessary to win—unlike so many of her highly principled family members. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "New study gives some handy tips on how to survive on Game of Thrones," 9 Dec. 2018 But to achieve liberation or a proper human life, there's three other pursuits including Artha, which is about economic and materialistic pursuits, Dharma, which is about justice and moral values, and Moksha, which is the ultimate spiritual values. Elise Peterson, Glamour, "The Kama Sutra Gets a Feminist Makeover," 17 July 2018 There seems to be no easy way to design algorithms that would reconcile moral values and personal self-interest. Betsy Morais, Longreads, "The Menace and the Promise of Autonomous Vehicles," 13 June 2018 Privacy and internet freedom are some of the most pressing human rights, technology issues, and also like moral issues. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Nobody trusts Facebook anymore. Here’s one way it could change that.," 15 Oct. 2018 That's been a big topic of conversation for us in terms of trying to evaluate the moral worth of an action. Elizabeth Angell, Town & Country, "The Good Place Creator Michael Schur on How He Made Philosophy a Pop Culture Phenomenon," 6 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

So say those who study the use of artificial intelligence in finance—though a digital wealth adviser with morals is likely still a long way off. Lisa Beilfuss, WSJ, "The Future Robo Adviser: Smart and Ethical?," 19 June 2018 Hall's eye-rolls and audible sighs as the only woman in the room anchors the show to a tenuous set of morals, or even politics, and serves as a layer of 2019 self-awareness placed over the 1987 locker room dialogue. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Black Monday on Showtime: Maybe Wall Street Isn't Funny Anymore," 21 Jan. 2019 Prior to dropping out of the race, Emanuel’s political opponents took him to task for blaming a lack of morals in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods for an uptick in violent crime. Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, "Rahm Emanuel leaves behind tainted legacy as Chicago murder rate, crime and corruption surge on his watch," 6 Sep. 2018 The outrage has also been directed at Francis and the Vatican and has fueled conservative criticism of Francis' mercy-over-morals priorities. Nicole Winfield, Fox News, "US bishops to meet pope amid crisis in confidence over abuse," 13 Sep. 2018 Dominated by conservative morals taught by the Roman Catholic Church, the Philippines is also one of Southeast Asia’s most tolerant countries toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Aurora Almendral, New York Times, "A Transgender Paradox, and Platform, in the Philippines," 29 Apr. 2018 Opinions have been all over the place: some argue that acting doesn’t reflect on the morals of the person taking on a role; others say now is not the right time to contribute to a project that might make a destructive character relatable in any way. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Vincent D’Onofrio asks Twitter to weigh in on whether playing an ‘irredeemable racist’ is constructive," 13 Aug. 2018 Teach them your values, morals, family history and compassion for others. Heloise, Houston Chronicle, "Parents, teach your children well," 27 May 2018 Since they were believed to impart their character through their milk, wet nurses had to demonstrate good morals, intelligence, and other desirable attributes. Mark Kurlansky, Time, "Why We've Been Fighting About Milk for 10,000 Years," 7 May 2018

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.

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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

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Statistics for moral

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for moral

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

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More Definitions for moral

moral

adjective

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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on moral

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with moral

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for moral

Spanish Central: Translation of moral

Nglish: Translation of moral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of moral for Arabic Speakers

Comments on moral

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not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped

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