from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Moral excellence and righteousness; goodness.
  • noun An example or kind of moral excellence.
  • noun Archaic Chastity, especially in a woman.
  • noun A particularly efficacious, good, or beneficial quality; advantage.
  • noun Effective force or power.
  • noun Christianity The fifth of the nine orders of angels in medieval angelology.
  • noun Obsolete Manly courage; valor.
  • idiom (by/in) On the grounds or basis of; by reason of.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Manly spirit; bravery; valor; daring; courage.
  • noun Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the conformity of life and conversation to the moral law; uprightness; rectitude; morality: the opposite of vice.
  • noun A particular moral excellence: as, the virtue of temperance or of charity.
  • noun Specifically, female purity; chastity.
  • noun Any good quality, merit, or admirable faculty.
  • noun An inherent power; a property capable of producing certain effects; strength; force; potency; efficacy; influence, especially active influence, and often medicinal efficacy.
  • noun One of the orders of the celestial hierarchy. The virtues are often represented in art as angels in complete armor, bearing pennons and battle-axes.
  • noun A mighty work; a miracle.
  • noun Synonyms Morals, Ethics, etc. (see morality); probity, integrity, rectitude, worth.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete Manly strength or courage; bravery; daring; spirit; valor.
  • noun Active quality or power; capacity or power adequate to the production of a given effect; energy; strength; potency; efficacy.
  • noun Energy or influence operating without contact of the material or sensible substance.
  • noun Excellence; value; merit; meritoriousness; worth.
  • noun Specifically, moral excellence; integrity of character; purity of soul; performance of duty.
  • noun A particular moral excellence.
  • noun Specifically: Chastity; purity; especially, the chastity of women; virginity.
  • noun One of the orders of the celestial hierarchy.
  • noun See under Cardinal, a.
  • noun through the force of; by authority of.
  • noun the three virtues, faith, hope, and charity. See 1 Cor. xiii. 13.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun any admirable quality or attribute
  • noun morality with respect to sexual relations
  • noun a particular moral excellence
  • noun the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English vertu, from Old French, from Latin virtūs, manliness, excellence, goodness, from vir, man; see wī-ro- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English vertu, from Anglo-Norman vertu, Middle French vertu, from Latin virtus ("manliness, bravery, worth, moral excellence"), from vir ("man"); see virile.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word virtue.


  • But then his trousers were always rolled up at the knee, for the convenience of wading on the slightest notice; and his virtue, supposing it to exist, was undeniably “virtue in rags, ” which, on the authority even of bilious philosophers, who think all well-dressed merit overpaid, is notoriously likely to remain unrecognized (perhaps because it is seen so seldom).

    VI. The Aunts and Uncles Are Coming. Book I—Boy and Girl 1917

  • The habit of virtue creates for him no wants but those which virtue itself suffices to satisfy; it is thus that _virtue is always its own peculiar reward_, that it remunerates itself with all the advantages which it incessantly procures for others.

    The System of Nature, Volume 1 Paul Henri Thiry Holbach 1756

  • V. ii.348 (448,5) [The virtue of your eye must break my oath] I believe the author means that the _virtue, _ in which word _goodness_ and _power_ are both comprised, _must dissolve_ the obligation of the oath.

    Notes to Shakespeare — Volume 01: Comedies Samuel Johnson 1746

  • V. v.220 (297,9) the temple/Of virtue was she; yea, and she herself] That is, She was not only _the temple of virtue_, but _virtue herself_.

    Notes to Shakespeare, Volume III: The Tragedies Samuel Johnson 1746

  • * The term virtue* is employed in various senses, which, though they cover

    A Manual of Moral Philosophy 1852

  • Not wanting to make love to Bella until they are married, saying his virtue is the only thing he has intact; he is also a virgin.

    Twilight Lexicon » Bill Condon talks to the fans on Facebook! 2010

  • Cicero said "The term virtue is from the word that signifies man; a man's chief quality is fortitude."

    Archive 2007-08-01 Marguerite 2007

  • Cicero said "The term virtue is from the word that signifies man; a man's chief quality is fortitude."

    Cardinal Virtues Marguerite 2007

  • The measure that men commonly apply to determine what they call virtue and vice.

    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 2007

  • I'd begin from the ancient Roman ideal of manliness - which is the root of our term virtue [vir is Latin for man] - and work up through the weakening of that ideal of manliness by Christianity, and on towards Rousseau's bourgeois man before turning to Hemingway and such figures as Michael Landon as Pa Ingalls [here I would be indebted to Dutch.]

    Archive 2006-06-18 2006

  • Minibar dubs its non-alcoholic pairing the “virtue selection,” implying you’re a puritan for forgoing whiskey and wine.

    The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch Jessica Sidman 2019


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 'Virtue is its own punishment.' -Aneurin Bevan

    February 20, 2008

  • "Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors." -Confucius

    December 6, 2010

  • By way of veracious love.

    June 25, 2015

  • Interesting that this word in its origin meant "manliness".

    June 26, 2015

  • "Patience is the virtue of the less gifted." - Unknown

    December 9, 2016