noun vir·tue \ˈvər-(ˌ)chü\

Definition of virtue

  1. 1a :  conformity to a standard of right :  moralityb :  a particular moral excellence

  2. 2 :  a beneficial quality or power of a thing

  3. 3 :  manly strength or courage :  valor

  4. 4 :  a commendable quality or trait :  merit

  5. 5 :  a capacity to act :  potency

  6. 6 :  chastity especially in a woman

  7. 7 virtues plural :  an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy


play \ˈvər-(ˌ)chü-ləs\ adjective

by virtue of


in virtue of

  1. :  through the force of :  by authority of

Examples of virtue in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall … —William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, 1605

  6. the virtue of wool as a clothing material is that it can provide insulation from the cold even when wet

  7. a lady of honor and virtue

Recent Examples of virtue from the web

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Origin and Etymology of virtue

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

VIRTUE Defined for English Language Learners


noun vir·tue \ˈvər-(ˌ)chü\

Definition of virtue for English Language Learners

  • : morally good behavior or character

  • : a good and moral quality

  • : the good result that comes from something

VIRTUE Defined for Kids


noun vir·tue \ˈvər-chü\

Definition of virtue for Students

  1. 1 :  morally good behavior or character We were urged to lead lives of virtue.

  2. 2 :  a good, moral, or desirable quality Patience is a virtue.

  3. 3 :  the good result that comes from something I learned the virtue of hard work.

by virtue of

  1. :  because of :  through the force of She succeeded by virtue of persistence.

History for virtue

From the Latin word vir, meaning “man,” the Romans formed the word virtus to describe such so-called “manly” qualities as firmness of purpose and courage. Gradually this word was used for any good qualities in males or females. The English word virtue came by way of French from Latin virtus.

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