righ·​teous ˈrī-chəs How to pronounce righteous (audio)
: acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin
: morally right or justifiable
a righteous decision
: arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality
righteous indignation
slang : genuine, excellent
righteously adverb
righteousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for righteous

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

The mix of Yorkshire-inherited bluntness and a caustic, chirpy South London cynicism (vividly parodied and perhaps too endearingly celebrated in the voice of Dora Chance, narrator of Wise Children) stops her from sounding righteous or dogmatic. Hermione Lee, Times Literary Supplement, 19 June 1992 I didn't know until long after I was grown that Grandpa Durham—that stern and righteous Baptist—sometimes made persimmon beer and cooled it in the cistern. Jim W. Corder, Chronicle of a Small Town, 1989 He was foreman at Lyman's North End foundry, the largest stove-making foundry in the city, and had risen in eleven years, despite his lung ailment, from apprentice to moulder to chief grievance spokesman, a voice of righteous reason from below. William Kennedy, Harper's, March 1988 The Believers tried to lead a simple, righteous life, practicing pacifism and confession of sins and recognizing the equality of all humankind. Robert P. Emlen, Natural History, September 1987 a righteous man can be trusted to act honorably regardless of the circumstances righteous behavior is its own reward See More
Recent Examples on the Web And then there’s Hollywood, where traditional morality – religious and secular – is often the foil, an authoritarian establishment standing in the way of the righteous – or at least of the righteously rebellious. Mary Beth Mccauley, The Christian Science Monitor, 25 Oct. 2022 Khaila Wilcoxon is comically righteous as Catherine of Aragon, and Olivia Donalson presides over Anna of Cleves’ romp with a regal wink and knowing smile. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 5 Oct. 2022 And its off-road advantage over more fuel-efficient crossovers is as righteous as Moab's Hells Gate. Austin Irwin, Car and Driver, 19 Apr. 2022 Prosecutors portrayed the case against Fletcher to jurors as a righteous stand against a corrupt attorney, with Deputy. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, 13 Feb. 2022 On the other hand, MLB enjoys getting righteous about the integrity of its product. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 26 Oct. 2021 Parishioners live elsewhere, trekking to church on Sunday and feeling righteous about the effort. Celia Storey, Arkansas Online, 24 May 2021 Forever’s ace in the hole, alternately charming and intimidating, and fueled by righteous indignation. David Sims, The Atlantic, 8 Nov. 2022 The racial reckoning of 2020 was righteous, and overdue, but its targets were haphazard. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, 3 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History


alteration of earlier rightuous, alteration of Middle English rightwise, rightwos, from Old English rihtwīs, from riht, noun, right + wīs wise

First Known Use

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of righteous was in 1530

Dictionary Entries Near righteous

Cite this Entry

“Righteous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/righteous. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



righ·​teous ˈrī-chəs How to pronounce righteous (audio)
: acting rightly : upright
: according to what is right
righteous actions
: caused by an insult to one's sense of what is right
righteous anger
righteously adverb
righteousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on righteous

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