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 moral (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 More than 70% said remembering the Holocaust and leading a moral and ethical life are essential, and 59% cited working for social justice. David Crary, Star Tribune, "New survey of US Jews reveals worries, strengths, divisions," 11 May 2021 The moral and public-health case for prioritizing rapid global vaccination over corporate profits is inarguable. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, "The Politics Behind India’s COVID Crisis," 9 May 2021 Erika Carter, who was a cheerleader and graduated in 2018, started a petition calling for greater transparency of the hiring process, an investigation and accountability for any legal or moral failings. Shannon Ryan, chicagotribune.com, "Nearly 400 protest Northwestern’s hiring of athletic director Mike Polisky, march to university President Morton Schapiro’s home: ‘They made a mistake. They should change their minds.’," 8 May 2021 Despite their notoriety, the group sees their fight as a moral and just one. Neil Giardino, ABC News, "After a year of protests, Portland residents have waning patience for antifa," 5 May 2021 Put another way, was democracy moral when a political majority curtailed the natural rights of another people who themselves were deprived of electoral consent? Andrew F. Lang, WSJ, "‘Lincoln in Private’ Review: Confidential Ruminations," 4 May 2021 These steps are of both moral and pragmatic urgency. David Lammy, Time, "There is No Climate Justice Without Racial Justice," 3 May 2021 Since incarcerated people rely on the government for healthcare, government officials have a moral and constitutional duty to care for people in their custody and keep them safe, the news release says. Sara Tabin, The Salt Lake Tribune, "ACLU of Utah calls for universal vaccine access for incarcerated people," 28 Apr. 2021 Averting our gaze from the tragedies surrounding us, remaining divorced from reality, in our little bubbles, are political and moral choices. Vidya Krishnan, The Atlantic, "India’s Moral Failure," 27 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The moral of the story is this: Don’t let another day go by without making up. cleveland, "Dear Annie: I’m concerned about my boyfriend’s unhealthy life choices," 2 Apr. 2021 The moral of the story is this: Don’t let another day go by without making up. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Couple’s path diverges over lifestyle choices," 2 Apr. 2021 The moral here isn’t that Marcora and Gattoni shouldn’t have published their study. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "A Real-World Test of Whether Fresh Minds Run Faster," 13 Mar. 2021 The moral of the story is to keep your exercise to your living room or outdoors for the time being. Sara Kiley Watson, Popular Science, "Gyms are still hot spots for spreading COVID-19," 25 Feb. 2021 The moral of her 25-year journey is relevant to her daughter, naturally, but also her two sons. Don Riddell, CNN, "Sarah Thomas: Kicked out of the men's basketball league, she set her sights on the Super Bowl," 19 Feb. 2021 The moral of Bliss is that experiencing the goodness of life, even for a moment, can show someone just how bad things have gotten. Shannon Carlin, refinery29.com, "Bliss Isn’t Saying What It Thinks It’s Saying," 8 Feb. 2021 All the famous incidents and players of the five families make their appearance in Sussman’s book in energetically neat outline form—each, one realizes, with a summary moral attached. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Why New York’s Mob Mythology Endures," 30 Nov. 2020 Such tact is in keeping with the moral of its story, which is that success in America means growing up to be less interesting than your parents or grandparents. New York Times, "‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Review: I Remember Mamaw," 23 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for moral

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for moral

Last Updated

14 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Moral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral. Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on moral

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for moral

Nglish: Translation of moral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of moral for Arabic Speakers

Comments on moral

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