vir·​tue ˈvər-(ˌ)chü How to pronounce virtue (audio)
: conformity to a standard of right : morality
: a particular moral excellence
: a beneficial quality or power of a thing
: manly strength or courage : valor
: a commendable quality or trait : merit
: a capacity to act : potency
: chastity especially in a woman
virtues plural : an order of angels see celestial hierarchy
virtueless adjective
by virtue of or in virtue of
: through the force of : by authority of

Example Sentences

He led me across the concrete floor, through a concrete warehouse, and to the concrete screening room, where he began to extol the virtue and beauty of his eleven-mile-long sewage interceptor. Frederick Kaufman, Harper's, February 2008 Disinterestedness was the most common term the founders used as a synonym for the classical conception of virtue or self-sacrifice; it better conveyed the threats from interests that virtue seemed increasingly to face in the rapidly commercializing eighteenth century. Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters, 2006 It was not only his title that made Poor Richard—and by extension [Benjamin] Franklin—an honorary Frenchman. He may well have devoted a great amount of ink to virtue and order, but he checked those concepts at the door of the beau monde; he made it clear that he was not too good for that world … Stacy Schiff, A Great Improvisation, 2005 Nerviness is considered a virtue, a good machine, an energy that builds nations, businesses and dynasties. Handed down from generation to generation, like a caustic strand of DNA, it infects the unhappy, the unfortunate and the unlucky, and turns them into desperate strivers, prepared to do anything to realize their ridiculous ambitions. David Byrne, The New Sins/Los Nuevos Pecados, 2001 Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall … William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, 1605 the virtue of wool as a clothing material is that it can provide insulation from the cold even when wet a lady of honor and virtue See More
Recent Examples on the Web Victories by Warnock and Ossoff put the Senate at a 50-50 split, with Democrats gaining control by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. Bill Barrow, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Nov. 2022 Victories by Warnock and Ossoff put the Senate at a 50-50 split, with Democrats gaining control by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote. Bill Barrow, Chicago Tribune, 27 Nov. 2022 The Ravens entered the day leading the AFC North by a game, with a tiebreaker in hand over the Bengals by virtue of a head-to-head walk-off win in October. Andrew Gillis, cleveland, 27 Nov. 2022 And each new astronautical foray is a constant reminder of our common humanity, irrespective of other labels applied by virtue of race, gender, nationality or creed. The Editors, Scientific American, 23 Nov. 2022 But by virtue of being an expensive and ultimately unpopular destination, Qatar doesn’t have to deal with the latter. Time, 23 Nov. 2022 Dillard’s personal relationship to the subject material by virtue of his dad was always evident to Powell. Robert Daniels, Los Angeles Times, 22 Nov. 2022 By virtue of the sweep, MU earned the No. 1 seeding in the Big East tournament next week in Omaha, Nebraska, and hopes to ride the momentum of the emphatic victory. Ben Steele, Journal Sentinel, 20 Nov. 2022 That’s the best SDSU (6-4, 4-2) and San Jose State (6-3, 4-2) could finish, but Fresno State holds the tiebreaker over both teams by virtue of head-to-head victories. San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Nov. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English vertu, virtu, from Anglo-French, from Latin virtut-, virtus strength, manliness, virtue, from vir man — more at virile

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of virtue was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near virtue

Cite this Entry

“Virtue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


vir·​tue ˈvər-chü How to pronounce virtue (audio)
: conduct that agrees with what is morally right
: a particular moral quality
justice and charity are virtues
: a desirable quality : merit
the virtues of country life

More from Merriam-Webster on virtue

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