moral

adjective
mor·​al | \ˈmȯr-əl, 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, ˈmär-; sense 3 is mə-ˈral\

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 \-​ə-​lē \ 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

Will Matt forsake his moral code never to kill someone in order to take out what may be an otherwise insurmountable threat? Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Wilson Fisk is back and better than ever in season 3 of Daredevil," 12 Nov. 2018 The moral of that story for us is that the small, focused startup with good traction with customers can win against a large incumbent. Eliot Brown, WSJ, "Boss Talk: Slack’s CEO Wants to Unshackle You From Email," 10 Oct. 2018 These legal actions reflect the growing awareness that addiction is a disease of the brain and not a moral failing of the soul, so it should be treated like diabetes or any other chronic illness. Brian Barnett, STAT, "Jails and prisons: the unmanned front in the battle against the opioid epidemic," 2 July 2018 Oppenheimer and his dedicated team of scientists work under the dual pressures of patriotism and moral conscience. Paul Ross, Popular Mechanics, "I Am Become Opera: An Atomic Show In the Shadow of Los Alamos," 27 July 2018 When judging Trump’s policies, personhood grants all the moral authority that anyone needs. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Motherhood and the Morality of Trump’s Immigration Policy," 18 June 2018 From the age of Enlightenment onward, philosophers, political leaders and moral authorities of many kinds have tried to convince us that work is one of the most important opportunities for freedom. Brian O’connor, Time, "Why Doing Nothing Is One of the Most Important Things You Can Do," 15 June 2018 Yanmei Xie of Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm in Beijing, says China wants to be seen as the defender of the global trade order and so claim the moral high ground. The Economist, "In its trade war with America, China dials down the hype," 12 July 2018 Plenty of consumers may also want to choose one business over another on moral grounds. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "The Red Hen and the Weaponization of Yelp," 26 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Its three central women, however, dress all in black and white, and like everyone at court, their morals and ethics come in every shade of gray. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The Favourite is a deliciously wicked tale of sex, women, and power plays," 21 Nov. 2018 Photo: Lynne Ticknor Parents often blame themselves for failing to instill morals. Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, "The Minefield of Talking With Your Children About Sexting," 20 Oct. 2018 My Instagram likes were not a true reflection of me and my morals. Bridget Read, Vogue, "The Internet Reacts—Badly—To the Bachelorette Finale," 7 Aug. 2018 One guy has better morals and is a little more responsible. Ilana Kaplan, Teen Vogue, "Ruel Puts a Twist on the Teenage Breakup with "Younger"," 3 Aug. 2018 The wreck of the Costa Concordia may spawn a different moral: Beware the hubris of those in charge who may be taking your safety for granted. Barbara S. Peterson, Popular Mechanics, "What Went Wrong on the Costa Concordia," 14 July 2014 But if morals and ethics were the only things at play, the show would have ended long ago — or wouldn’t have been revived in the first place. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Why ABC had to cancel Roseanne," 29 May 2018 Salander injects into Larsson’s matrix of morals some of the anarchy of children’s literature, and that was by design. Alice Bolin, Longreads, "The Daughter as Detective," 26 June 2018 Their legal rulings and attempts to police morals made the kingdom increasingly intolerant, setting back the gradual opening up that had occurred in the 1960s and ’70s. Adel Al-toraifi, WSJ, "The Saudis Take On Radical Islam," 19 Mar. 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

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

Noun

see moral entry 1

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Statistics for moral

Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

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

morals : 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 \

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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