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 Elite has always been a rather strange-looking creation, although its occasional seating for four is something of a redeeming virtue. Mike Knepper, Car and Driver, 31 Mar. 2023 Present-day art historians consider Eleonora’s luxurious trappings as symbols of her status and virtue. Mary C. Sauer, WSJ, 10 Mar. 2023 But in his own party, and back home, Mr. Comer knows that is regarded as a virtue. Luke Broadwater, New York Times, 21 Mar. 2023 Self-sufficiency is a virtue. Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, 7 Mar. 2023 Often Umberto reminded Brunello that working hard was not in and of itself a virtue. Jon Caramanica, Town & Country, 28 Feb. 2023 Cowsert, though, is trying to turn that necessity into a virtue. Jeff Amy, ajc, 16 Feb. 2023 White represents joy, love, virtue, holiness, and all things angelic, including the purity of Jesus Christ, as described by the Christian Resource Institute. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 14 Feb. 2023 If Frank Sinatra had a cold, Santos has an allergy to anything resembling virtue. Longreads, 3 Feb. 2023 See More

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

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 8 Jun. 2023.

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

Middle English vertu, virtu "behavior that fits with what is right or moral," from early French virtu (same meaning), from Latin virtus "strength, virtue, manly quality," from vir "man, male" — related to virile

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