righ·​teous ˈrī-chəs How to pronounce righteous (audio)
: acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin
: morally right or justifiable
a righteous decision
: arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality
righteous indignation
slang : genuine, excellent
righteously adverb
righteousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for righteous

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

Example Sentences

The mix of Yorkshire-inherited bluntness and a caustic, chirpy South London cynicism (vividly parodied and perhaps too endearingly celebrated in the voice of Dora Chance, narrator of Wise Children) stops her from sounding righteous or dogmatic. Hermione Lee, Times Literary Supplement, 19 June 1992
I didn't know until long after I was grown that Grandpa Durham—that stern and righteous Baptist—sometimes made persimmon beer and cooled it in the cistern. Jim W. Corder, Chronicle of a Small Town, 1989
He was foreman at Lyman's North End foundry, the largest stove-making foundry in the city, and had risen in eleven years, despite his lung ailment, from apprentice to moulder to chief grievance spokesman, a voice of righteous reason from below. William Kennedy, Harper's, March 1988
The Believers tried to lead a simple, righteous life, practicing pacifism and confession of sins and recognizing the equality of all humankind. Robert P. Emlen, Natural History, September 1987
a righteous man can be trusted to act honorably regardless of the circumstances righteous behavior is its own reward See More
Recent Examples on the Web The type of incident that grabs neighbors by the collar and demands their attention — and, in this case, the communities collective righteous indignation. Jasmin Barmore, Detroit Free Press, 4 Apr. 2023 In fact, one of the greatest heroes of the North during the Civil War was (depending on your perspective) either a terrorist, an insurgent, a freedom fighter, a madman, a martyr, or the paragon of a righteous cause. Brynn Tannehill, The New Republic, 12 Dec. 2022 No one has matched his Robin Hood for righteous, witty—and physically beautiful—swagger. Michael Sragow, WSJ, 16 Mar. 2023 Walking the path of the righteous, shunning the Devil, not murdering any of your siblings — none of it really pays off for Thomasin, not when being evil and flying is right there for the taking. Vulture, 31 Mar. 2023 Eventually, a strange narrative arose: The riot simultaneously didn’t happen and was also righteous. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 8 Mar. 2023 Lacking the 930's bulbous fenders and whale tail, the SC is less a caricature, more a subtle and righteous-looking notice of intent to commit unspecified illegalities, especially in fast corners. Larry Griffin, Car and Driver, 21 Feb. 2023 So often in conflict coverage, the media are quick to draw blunt distinctions: Ukraine good, Russia evil; military righteous, ISIS monstrous. Longreads, 10 Feb. 2023 Like Hilton and so many other great Americans, every single one of us can dedicate our lives to the moral and righteous service our nation and the diverse people who call it home. Baltimore Sun, 1 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


alteration of earlier rightuous, alteration of Middle English rightwise, rightwos, from Old English rihtwīs, from riht, noun, right + wīs wise

First Known Use

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of righteous was in 1530

Dictionary Entries Near righteous

Cite this Entry

“Righteous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/righteous. Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


righ·​teous ˈrī-chəs How to pronounce righteous (audio)
: acting rightly : upright
: according to what is right
righteous actions
: caused by an insult to one's sense of what is right
righteous anger
righteously adverb
righteousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on righteous

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