moral

adjective
mor·​al | \ ˈmȯr-əl How to pronounce moral (audio) , ˈmär- \

Definition of moral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical moral judgments
b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior a moral poem
c : conforming to a standard of right behavior took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
d : sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment a moral obligation
e : capable of right and wrong action a moral agent
2 : probable though not proved : virtual a moral certainty
3 : perceptual or psychological rather than tangible or practical in nature or effect a moral victory moral support

moral

noun
mor·​al | \ ˈmȯr-əl How to pronounce moral (audio) , ˈmär-; sense 3 is mə-ˈral How to pronounce moral (audio) \

Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : the moral significance or practical lesson (as of a story) The moral of the story is to be satisfied with what you have.
b : a passage pointing out usually in conclusion the lesson to be drawn from a story
2 morals plural
a : moral practices or teachings : modes of conduct an authoritative code of morals has force and effect when it expresses the settled customs of a stable society— Walter Lippmann
b : ethics the science of morals endeavors to divide men into the good and the bad— J. W. Krutch
3 : morale The casualties did not shake the moral of the soldiers.

Other Words from moral

Adjective

morally \ ˈmȯr-​ə-​lē How to pronounce moral (audio) , ˈmär-​ \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for moral

Adjective

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

Ethics vs Morals: Is there a difference?

Ethics and morals are both used in the plural and are often regarded as synonyms, but there is some distinction in how they are used.

Morals often describes one's particular values concerning what is right and what is wrong:

It would go against my morals to help you cheat on the test.

He appears to view himself as a kind of culture warrior, striking out against the crumbling morals of modern society.
Jonathan Goldsbie, Now Toronto, 16 Oct. 2014

While ethics can refer broadly to moral principles, one often sees it applied to questions of correct behavior within a relatively narrow area of activity:

Our class had a debate over the ethics of genetic testing.

Anybody, it seemed, could make the music -- if they couldn't play guitar, they could push a button -- and nobody worried about the ethics of appropriating riffs.
Jennifer Foote, Newsweek, 23 July 1990

In addition, morals usually connotes an element of subjective preference, while ethics tends to suggest aspects of universal fairness and the question of whether or not an action is responsible:

Perhaps you don’t like Kim Kardashian, or her family, or her morals don’t align with yours, or you just think it’s weird that she might have had some plastic surgery, likes to apply makeup in a really complicated way and named her kid “Saint.”
Sarah Boboltz, The Huffington Post, 12 Oct. 2016

The Frenches, both professors in The Media School, focused on the ethics of making medical decisions for a child who could not express her own wishes yet…
Chris Mura, Indiana Daily Student, 18 Oct. 2016

Examples of moral in a Sentence

Adjective Nor did these lawyers and bankers walk about suffused with guilt. They had the moral equivalent of teflon on their soul. Church on Sunday, foreclose on Monday. — Norman Mailer, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002 … trip-wire sensitivity to perceived insult often leads to unjustifiable firings and other moral and legal imbroglios. — John McWhorter, New Republic, 14 Jan. 2002 The modern liberal state was premised on the notion that in the interests of political peace, government would not take sides among the differing moral claims made by religion and traditional culture. — Francis Fukuyama, Atlantic, May 1999 It was our desire for a moral world, the deep wish to assert the existence of goodness, that generated, as it continues to do, political fantasy. — Arthur Miller, Timebends, 1987 The author avoids making moral judgments. Each story teaches an important moral lesson. He felt that he had a moral obligation to help the poor. We're confident she has the moral fiber to make the right decision. Their behavior was not moral. Animals are not moral creatures and are not responsible for their actions. Noun The moral of the story is to be satisfied with what you have. The moral here is: pay attention to the warning lights in your car. Socrates was accused of corrupting the morals of the youth of Athens. The author points to recent cases of fraud as evidence of the lack of morals in the business world. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective As a young woman, Ferguson admired O’Connor for her blunt honesty and her moral compass. James Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, 28 Sep. 2022 It’s a fraught, no-win situation that Oakley’s brisk script negotiates with moral clarity but little rhetorical chiding. Guy Lodge, Variety, 9 Sep. 2022 Bals was deeply impressed by Luciano Lliuya - his humility and moral clarity, his commitment to protecting his home. Sarah Kaplan, Anchorage Daily News, 30 Aug. 2022 These cutthroat opponents of ours lacked moral clarity and were willing to do anything to survive, but none had the False Profits’ ability to inflict financial damage. Steve Adelman, Rolling Stone, 18 Aug. 2022 Supporters of personhood say declaring that all human beings, including those in the womb, have rights lends important moral clarity and that changes stemming from the concept are desirable. Jeff Amy, ajc, 30 July 2022 Supporters of personhood say declaring that all human beings, including those in the womb, have rights lends important moral clarity and that changes stemming from the concept are desirable. Jeff Amy, al, 30 July 2022 Who can maintain a sense of moral clarity in such a national house of mirrors? Ron Charles, Washington Post, 26 July 2022 The book reviewer runs out of superlatives, quailing before the work of the nature writer, essayist and fiction writer Barry Lopez (1945-2020), whose insight and moral clarity have earned comparisons to Henry David Thoreau. Bill Heavey, WSJ, 27 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The moral of this story is that there is more than one way to think about pickles. Dorothy Dworkin, Sun Sentinel, 29 Sep. 2022 Except, of course, the moral of Groundhog Day is that sincere intention can change the future. WIRED, 28 Sep. 2022 After speaking with shop owners in several different states, the moral of the story seems to be that there’s no rhyme or reason to what goods or which brands are causing inventory problems on a consistent basis. Andrew Weaver, Outside Online, 6 Nov. 2020 The moral of a story is not always clear, or the same to everyone in the audience. Rachel Connolly, The New Republic, 12 Aug. 2022 The moral of the story is to think unconventionally and experiment with different things—if only to give you a reason to host more barbecues. Katie Kelly Bell, Forbes, 20 June 2022 The moral of this story is plants ultimately reach a point when the rate of growth slows considerably. Chris Mckeown, The Enquirer, 18 June 2022 The moral of the story is that, much like the spirits haunting its fringes, Supernatural will never truly die. Samantha Highfill, EW.com, 9 June 2022 The moral of the story is part of what attracted ICAF co-founder, Katty Guerami, to the project. Jessica Geltstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of moral

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

circa 1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for moral

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin moralis, from mor-, mos custom

Learn More About moral

Time Traveler for moral

Time Traveler

The first known use of moral was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near moral

moraine

moral

moral ambiguity

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Statistics for moral

Last Updated

5 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

“Moral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for moral

moral

adjective
mor·​al | \ ˈmȯr-əl How to pronounce moral (audio) \

Kids Definition of moral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : concerned with or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior moral problems a moral judgment
2 : able to teach a lesson of how people should behave a moral story
3 : good entry 1 sense 13, virtuous They lead a moral life.
4 : able to tell right from wrong Humans are moral beings.

Other Words from moral

morally adverb morally wrong behavior

moral

noun

Kids Definition of moral (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the lesson to be learned from a story or experience
2 morals plural : ways of behaving : moral conduct They have a high standard of morals.
3 morals plural : teachings or rules of right behavior

More from Merriam-Webster on moral

Nglish: Translation of moral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of moral for Arabic Speakers

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