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

Taking a hard line approach and treating drug use as a moral failing won’t help people at risk. courant.com, "Community News For The Manchester Edition," 10 July 2019 Profound constitutional and moral questions remain unanswered in the case, her lawyers maintain in their petition to the Supreme Court. Anchorage Daily News, "Woman who urged boyfriend to kill himself asks Supreme Court to call it free speech," 9 July 2019 Unless there’s some backstory here that would excuse your husband of any moral debt to his sister or to the people who raised him, his dismissiveness betrays an utter failure of character. Carolyn Hax, Detroit Free Press, "Husband thinks elderly parents’ care is not his problem," 7 July 2019 ProPublica Illinois is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. Melissa Sanchez, ProPublica, "Chicago Can’t Hold Impounded Vehicles After Drivers File for Bankruptcy, Court Says," 3 July 2019 The questions of who gets paid—and who doesn’t—when using digital avatars is only the tip of the moral iceberg. Tatum Dooley, Teen Vogue, "Skincare Line SK-II Announces AI Spokesperson Named YUMI," 27 June 2019 The party viewed that as a moral victory, considering the district is gerrymandered to favor Republicans and Pureval's campaign made several unforced errors. Cincinnati.com, "PX column: The Air Force combat vet. A Clinton-connected health care expert. Can either of these political newcomers take down Steve Chabot?," 26 June 2019 The moral standard most compatible with engagement is absolute freedom of expression, the standard of having no standards. Noam Cohen, WIRED, "Why Siri and Alexa Weren’t Built to Smack Down Harassment," 6 June 2019 Live-streaming webcast is not lawless territory and users should obey the law and uphold moral standards. Gerry Shih, The Seattle Times, "Chinese online star detained for 5 days after singing the national anthem badly," 15 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Jake Busey as Bruce: Bruce is a journalist for the The Hawkins Post, with questionable morals and a twisted sense of humor. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Who is Alexei From "Stranger Things” Season 3?," 9 July 2019 Hollywood and the Republican right have clashed for years over the morals of the silver screen and the piety of the steeple. Jeffrey Fleishman, chicagotribune.com, "Georgia’s abortion ban forces political reckoning among TV and film workers," 24 June 2019 Evangelicals portray Hollywood as an elitist carpetbagger peddling bankrupt morals. Jeffrey Fleishman, chicagotribune.com, "Georgia’s abortion ban forces political reckoning among TV and film workers," 24 June 2019 Biden questioned the president’s intelligence and challenged his morals. John Wagner, Twin Cities, "Biden delivers scathing address on Trump, and the president fires back," 11 June 2019 In The Society, Natasha plays a girl who's torn about everything including her morals, God, and her boyfriend, Luke. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Cast Of "The Society" And Their Characters," 10 May 2019 For Aden, the opportunity to take part in a momentous shoot without compromising her morals and values is both exciting and validating. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Halima Aden Is the First Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model to Wear a Burkini and Hijab," 30 Apr. 2019 At the First Vatican Council in 1870, the bishops declared the pope infallible on matters of faith and morals and recognized the primacy of his jurisdiction over the church. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Even the Pope’s ‘Supreme’ Power Has Its Limits," 29 Apr. 2018 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

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

13 Jul 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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