rec·​ti·​tude ˈrek-tə-ˌtüd How to pronounce rectitude (audio)
: the quality or state of being straight
: moral integrity : righteousness
: the quality or state of being correct in judgment or procedure

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The Right Definition of Rectitude

Ready for some straight talk about rectitude? Righto! Rectitude is a formal word that comes from the Latin adjective rectus, which means both “right” and “straight,” and ultimately from the Latin verb regere, meaning “to lead straight.” Rectitude today typically refers to moral integrity—that is, to “straightness” or “rightness” of character. (An early use referred literally to a straight line, but that sense is now rare.) Rectus has a number of other descendants in English, including rectangle (a closed four-sided figure with four right angles), rectify (“to make right”), rectilinear (“moving in or forming a straight line”), and even rectus itself, a medical term for any one of several straight muscles in the body.

Examples of rectitude in a Sentence

encouraged the graduates to go on to live lives of unimpeachable rectitude and integrity has a finely honed sense of rectitude that keeps him from cheating on exams
Recent Examples on the Web The police chief after Ed Ryan, Glenn MacLean, was no match for his predecessor’s rectitude, intellect, and energy. Samuel G. Freedman, The New Republic, 21 June 2023 His understanding of power is not derived from the populace, but rather from a divine source, a sense of historical rectitude, and a sense of justice. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 27 June 2023 All that black-and-white stiff-necked rectitude, the round face and level gaze, the high collar, the velvet and satin of a distant century, the hat—those hats!—flat, drab, lifeless. Jeff MacGregor, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 June 2023 Los Angeles needed a man on a white horse, somebody to clean things up, or at least give the place a sheen of rectitude. Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 30 May 2023 Dismissing the rectitude for which his stepson pleads, Maurice instead draws inspiration from the goofy determination of his twin boys (ebulliently played by Christian and Jonah Lees), who are professional disco dancers during the few years when that is possible. Kyle Smith, WSJ, 2 June 2022 He was drawn to the Nation of Islam, also known as the Black Muslims, an organization that preached Black independence and separatism and demanded stringent rectitude from its members and was embraced by its leader Elijah Muhammad, The Messenger, himself an acolyte of Garvey., 1 Sep. 2021 But this is a flattering and soothing and juvenile and puritanical and gratifyingly evangelical narrative: that only through an act of successful savagery and self-sabotage could a place or a people arrive at righteous rectitude. Justin Beal, Harper’s Magazine , 14 Dec. 2022 This is the civic philosophy that underpins all his work, his long association with PBS, his speeches and interviews and op-eds—even his public persona, which melds amiable dorkiness with a kind of old-fashioned liberal rectitude. Scott Borchert, The New Republic, 22 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rectitude.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin rectitudo, from Latin rectus straight, right

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of rectitude was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near rectitude

Cite this Entry

“Rectitude.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


rec·​ti·​tude ˈrek-tə-ˌt(y)üd How to pronounce rectitude (audio)
: the quality or state of being straight
: moral honesty : righteousness

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