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 The inherent virtue of democracy—allowing people to choose their own leaders—is also its inherent danger. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, 20 Sep. 2022 The whistleblower is—or was—an actor moved by duty, virtue, or both. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 25 Aug. 2022 Troy and Tao drew a great deal of inspiration of Wǔxiá, a thousand-year-old cultural tradition encompassing martial arts, philosophy, virtue, history, romance, poetry, and legends. Josh Weiss, Forbes, 16 Aug. 2022 The thinking goes that by virtue of their (eventual) cheapness, alternative meats can elbow out their incumbents. Charlie Hope-d’anieri, The New Republic, 2 Nov. 2022 Its top ranking came by virtue of its affordable housing—homes there sell for less than the national median—the quality of its healthcare, and happiness of its residents. Alena Botros, Fortune, 1 Nov. 2022 Newport Harbor had won, meaning Sierra Canyon would win by virtue of set ratio even if Marymount won. Luca Evans, Los Angeles Times, 29 Oct. 2022 The Browns and Steelers are tied at 2-4, but the Browns are in third by virtue of their 1-0 division mark. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, 23 Oct. 2022 With senior kicker Max Lemasters’ 35-yard field goal – the lone points of the second half for the Panthers, who had called off the horses – the Panthers were able to burn precious seconds by virtue of a running clock. Evan Merrill, The Enquirer, 22 Oct. 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 27 Nov. 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
by virtue of or in virtue of
: through the force of : by authority of

More from Merriam-Webster on virtue

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