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

Examples of righteous in a Sentence

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
Recent Examples on the Web Their selections paint a complicated picture, convening hopeful, patriotic idealists, righteous firebrands, and downtrodden cynics. The New Yorker, 12 June 2024 Of course, the night ends in violence, which evokes all-too-familiar headlines, but the show impressively avoids clichés thanks to unexpected details like a secret door, a righteous robbery, and an invisible car. EW.com, 10 June 2024 There is a fine line between righteous indignation and precipitous rage. Gregory Meeks, New York Daily News, 8 May 2024 Not everything’s like a movie, as John Sugar thinks to himself, driving away from the scene of his righteous (but unnerving) killing spree. Andy Andersen, Vulture, 3 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for righteous 

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 22 Jun. 2024.

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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