adjective righ·teous \ ˈrī-chəs \
|Updated on: 17 Aug 2018

Definition of righteous

1 : acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin
2 a : morally right or justifiable
  • a righteous decision
b : arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality
  • righteous indignation
3 slang : genuine, excellent





Examples of righteous in a Sentence

  1. 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 LeeTimes Literary Supplement19 June 1992
  2. 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. CorderChronicle of a Small Town1989
  3. 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 KennedyHarper'sMarch 1988
  4. The Believers tried to lead a simple, righteous life, practicing pacifism and confession of sins and recognizing the equality of all humankind. —Robert P. EmlenNatural HistorySeptember 1987
  5. a righteous man can be trusted to act honorably regardless of the circumstances

  6. righteous behavior is its own reward

Recent Examples of righteous from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'righteous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of righteous

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

Other Religion (Eastern and Other) Terms

RIGHTEOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of righteous for English Language Learners

  • : morally good : following religious or moral laws

  • : caused by something that you believe is not morally right or fair

RIGHTEOUS Defined for Kids


adjective righ·teous \ ˈrī-chəs \

Definition of righteous for Students

1 : doing or being what is just or proper
  • righteous people
  • a righteous action
2 : caused by an insult to what is believed to be just or proper
  • righteous anger


  • righteously angry



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excessive admiration or flattery

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