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From ethic +‎ -al, from Late Latin ethicus (moral, ethical), from Ancient Greek ἠθικός (ēthikós, of or for morals, moral, expressing character), from ἦθος (êthos, character, moral nature).


  • IPA(key): /ˈɛθɪkəl/
  • (file)


ethical (comparative more ethical, superlative most ethical)

  1. (philosophy, not comparable) Of or relating to the study of ethics.
    The philosopher Kant is particularly known for his ethical writings.
  2. (not comparable) Of or relating to the accepted principles of right and wrong, especially those of some organization or profession.
    All employees must familiarize themselves with our ethical guidelines.
  3. (comparable) Morally approvable; good.
    We are trying to decide what the most ethical course of action would be.
  4. (of a drug, not comparable) Only dispensed on the prescription of a physician.
    In most jurisdictions, morphine is classified as an ethical drug.

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ethical (plural ethicals)

  1. An ethical drug, one only dispensed on the prescription of a physician.


  • ethical at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • ethical in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • ethical” in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
  • ethical” in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.