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From Old French ethique, from Late Latin ethica, from Ancient Greek ἠθική(ēthikḗ), from ἠθικός(ēthikós, of or for morals, moral, expressing character), from ἦθος(êthos, character, moral nature).



ethics ‎(uncountable)

  1. (philosophy) The study of principles relating to right and wrong conduct.
  2. Morality.
  3. The standards that govern the conduct of a person, especially a member of a profession.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Although the terms ethics and morality may sometimes be used interchangeably, philosophical ethicists often distinguish them, using ethics to refer to theories and conceptual studies relating to good and evil and right and wrong, and using morality and its related terms to refer to actual, real-world beliefs and practices concerning proper conduct. In this vein, the American philosopher Brand Blanshard wrote concerning his friend, the eminent British ethicist G. E. Moore: "We often discussed ethics, but seldom morals. . . . He was a master in ethical theory, but did not conceive himself as specially qualified to pass opinions on politics or social issues." [1]
  • In particular, in general usage ethical is used to describe standards of behavior between individuals, while moral or immoral can describe any behavior. You can call lying unethical or immoral, for example, because it involves the behavior of one person and how it affects another, but violating dietary prohibitions in a holy text would be described as immoral.


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See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • ethics at OneLook Dictionary Search


  1. ^ Paul Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard, Library of Living Philosophers, ISBN 0875483496, "Autobiography", p. 85.