From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



From Anglo-Norman moralité, Middle French moralité, from Late Latin mōrālitās (manner, characteristic, character), from Latin mōrālis (relating to manners or morals), from mōs (manner, custom). equivalent to moral +‎ -ity.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /məˈɹælɪti/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ælɪti


morality (countable and uncountable, plural moralities)

  1. (uncountable) Recognition of the distinction between good and evil or between right and wrong; respect for and obedience to the rules of right conduct; the mental disposition or characteristic of behaving in a manner intended to produce morally good results.
    • 1841, Thomas Carlyle, chapter 3, in Heroes and Hero Worship:
      Without morality, intellect were impossible for him; a thoroughly immoral man could not know anything at all! To know a thing, what we can call knowing, a man must first love the thing, sympathize with it: that is, be virtuously related to it.
    • 1910 November, Jack London, “Actors’ Description of Characters”, in Theft: A Play in Four Acts, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., →OCLC, page x:
      Ellery Jackson-Hubbard. [] A man radiating prosperity, optimism and selfishness. Has no morality whatever. Is a conscious individualist, cold-blooded, pitiless, working only for himself, and believing in nothing but himself.
    • 1911, G. K. Chesterton, chapter 16, in Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens:
      Science and art without morality are not dangerous in the sense commonly supposed. They are not dangerous like a fire, but dangerous like a fog.
    • 1965 April 30, “King Moves North”, in Time:
      It may be true that you cannot legislate morality, but behavior can be regulated.
  2. (countable) A set of social rules, customs, traditions, beliefs, or practices which specify proper, acceptable forms of conduct.
    • 1912, George Bernard Shaw, “Act V”, in Pygmalion[1]:
      I have to live for others and not for myself: that's middle class morality.
    • 1917, William MacLeod Raine, chapter 14, in The Yukon Trail:
      He smiled a little. "Morality is the average conduct of the average man at a given time and place. It is based on custom and expediency."
  3. (countable) A set of personal guiding principles for conduct or a general notion of how to behave, whether respectable or not.
    • 1781, Samuel Johnson, “Sheffield”, in Lives of the Poets:
      His morality was such as naturally proceeds from loose opinions.
    • 1994 November 4, “Man Convicted of Murder in '92 Bludgeoning”, in San Jose Mercury News, page 2B:
      Deputy District Attorney Bill Tingle called Jones "the devil's right-hand man" and said he should be punished for his "atrocious morality."
  4. (countable, archaic) A lesson or pronouncement which contains advice about proper behavior.
    • 1824, Sir Walter Scott, chapter 16, in St. Ronan's Well:
      "She had done her duty"—"she left the matter to them that had a charge anent such things"—and "Providence would bring the mystery to light in his own fitting time"—such were the moralities with which the good dame consoled herself.
    • 1882, William Makepeace Thackeray, “Vanitas Vanitatum”, in Ballads, page 195:
      What mean these stale moralities,
      Sir Preacher, from your desk you mumble?
  5. (countable) A morality play.
  6. (uncountable, rare) Moral philosophy, the branch of philosophy which studies the grounds and nature of rightness, wrongness, good, and evil.
    • 1953, J. Kemp, “Review of The Claim of Morality by N.H.G. Robinson”, in The Philosophical Quarterly, volume 3, number 12, page 278:
      Robinson sums up the conclusion of the first part of his book as being "that the task of the moralist is to set in their proper relation to one another the three different types of moral judgment . . . and so reveal the field of morality as a single self-coherent system".
  7. (countable, rare) A particular theory concerning the grounds and nature of rightness, wrongness, good, and evil.
    • 1954, Bernard Mayo, “Ethics and Moral Controversy”, in The Philosophical Quarterly, volume 4, number 14, page 11:
      Hume's morality which ‘implies some sentiment common to all mankind’; Kant's morality for all rational beings; Butler's morality with its presupposition of ‘uniformity of conscience’.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Although the terms morality and ethics may sometimes be used interchangeably, philosophical ethicists often distinguish them, using morality and its related terms to refer to actual, real-world beliefs and practices concerning proper conduct, and using ethics to refer to theories and conceptual studies relating to good and evil and right and wrong. 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]



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Further reading[edit]


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