noun vir·tue \ ˈvər-(ˌ)chü \
|Updated on: 6 Aug 2018

Definition of virtue

1 a : conformity to a standard of right : morality
b : a particular moral excellence
2 : a beneficial quality or power of a thing
3 : manly strength or courage : valor
4 : a commendable quality or trait : merit
5 : a capacity to act : potency
6 : chastity especially in a woman
7 virtues plural : an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy


play \ˈvər-(ˌ)chü-ləs\ adjective
by virtue of or in virtue of
: 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 KaufmanHarper'sFebruary 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. WoodRevolutionary Characters2006
  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 SchiffA Great Improvisation2005
  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 ByrneThe New Sins/Los Nuevos Pecados2001
  5. Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall … —William ShakespeareMeasure for Measure1605
  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

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.

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

VIRTUE Defined for English Language Learners


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 : morally good behavior or character
  • We were urged to lead lives of virtue.
2 : a good, moral, or desirable quality
  • Patience is a virtue.
3 : the good result that comes from something
  • I learned the virtue of hard work.
by virtue of
: 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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very hard to disturb or upset

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