vir·​tu·​ous ˈvər-chə-wəs How to pronounce virtuous (audio)
: having or exhibiting virtue
: morally excellent : righteous
a virtuous decision
: chaste
virtuously adverb
virtuousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for virtuous

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

Example Sentences

In a kind of virtuous circle, the "second tier" schools got better as applications rose and they could become choosier in assembling a class—which in turn raised the quality of the whole experience on campus and made the school more attractive to both topflight professors and the next wave of applicants. Nancy Gibbs et al., Time, 21 Aug. 2006
In its quest to create ice cream as voluptuous as butter and as virtuous as broccoli, the ice cream industry has probed the depths of the Arctic Ocean, studied the intimate structures of algae and foisted numerous failures on the American public. Julia Moskin, New York Times, 26 July 2006
Children born into high-income households become part of a virtuous circle of success. Parents with university degrees tend to earn more, set higher educational goals for their children, and invest more time in the children's schooling than parents who have a high-school education or less. Laura D'Andrea Tyson, BusinessWeek, 7 July 2003
We redefined virtue as health. And considering the probable state of our souls, this was not a bad move. By relocating the seat of virtue from the soul to the pecs, the abs and the coronary arteries, we may not have become the most virtuous people on earth, but we surely became the most desperate for grace. We spend $5 billion a year on our health-club memberships, $2 billion on vitamins, nearly $1 billion on home exercise equipment, and $6 billion on sneakers to wear out on our treadmills and StairMasters. Barbara Ehrenreich, Utne Reader, May/June 1992
She felt that she had made a virtuous decision by donating the money to charity. virtuous behavior is its own reward See More
Recent Examples on the Web But Harvard law professors Jesse M. Fried and Charles C.Y. Wang, who wrote the Journal op-ed calling buybacks virtuous, argued the opposite. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 7 Mar. 2023 Russian propagandists are doing exactly that, right now, etching a picture of a virtuous, beleaguered country defending itself against meddlesome and dissolute international adversaries. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 14 Dec. 2022 In the ideal conception, the emperor should be wise, just, and virtuous, bringing harmony and prosperity to the realm and to the world. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 13 Oct. 2022 Subarus were, for reasons unknown, virtuous. Mark Oppenheimer, WSJ, 23 July 2022 Work and health care support each other in a virtuous cycle. Chris Farrell, Fortune Well, 6 Apr. 2023 God help us if art is simply done by virtuous, empathetic people. David Marchese, New York Times, 11 Sep. 2022 And a virtuous life. Chitra Divakaruni, Good Housekeeping, 10 Sep. 2022 What the humanists envisioned was rule by the wisest, most virtuous people. Barton Swaim, WSJ, 19 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'virtuous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see virtue

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of virtuous was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near virtuous

Cite this Entry

“Virtuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


vir·​tu·​ous ˈvərch-(ə-)wəs How to pronounce virtuous (audio)
: having or showing moral virtue
virtuously adverb
virtuousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on virtuous

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