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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web But OutKast became one of the most exhilarating rap duos ever, a shape-shifting marvel, pimps one moment and aliens the next, streetwise but with their eyes to the cosmos, righteous yet conscious of their own contradictions. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2023 His master had taught him never to act out of blind anger; retribution should be exacted from an objective, righteous distance. Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Affairs, 16 Nov. 2023 The song aims to take seriously the subject of domestic violence… while also indulging in a classic country trope, in having the protagonist become a righteous murderer. Chris Willman, Variety, 9 Nov. 2023 Brade points out that British stockbroker Nicholas Winton, who was knighted for saving 669 Czech refugee children during the war—a rescue effort coordinated with Wijsmuller’s help—earned accolades for his righteous actions, while Wijsmuller was largely overlooked. Cari Shane, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 Nov. 2023 The mail reaffirmed what Brian believed: His cause was righteous. Eli Saslow Erin Schaff, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2023 Arnold Diaz, a brash investigative reporter at three New York City television stations who brought righteous passion to segments that shamed con artists, business owners, scammers, government bureaucrats and others who ripped off consumers, died on Oct. 24 in Greenwich, Conn. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, 1 Nov. 2023 But Heavy Heavy is a joyous mashup of glitchy, multilingual singalongs, danceable drumming, and righteous cacophonies.—C.Se. Zach Bryan, Zach Bryan How to characterize the Zach Bryan phenomenon? Liam Hess, Vogue, 23 Oct. 2023 Now, Israel’s righteous war on her terrorist enemies will undoubtedly lead to a further drawing down of important stocks. The Editors, National Review, 17 Oct. 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 7 Dec. 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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