Definitions

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

  • n. Moral excellence and righteousness; goodness.
  • n. An example or kind of moral excellence: the virtue of patience.
  • n. Chastity, especially in a woman.
  • n. A particularly efficacious, good, or beneficial quality; advantage: a plan with the virtue of being practical.
  • n. Effective force or power: believed in the virtue of prayer.
  • n. Christianity The fifth of the nine orders of angels in medieval angelology.
  • n. Obsolete Manly courage; valor.
  • idiom by On the grounds or basis of; by reason of: well-off by virtue of a large inheritance.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Manly strength or courage; bravery; daring; spirit; valor.
  • n. Active quality or power; capacity or power adequate to the production of a given effect; energy; strength; potency; efficacy.
  • n. Energy or influence operating without contact of the material or sensible substance.
  • n. Excellence; value; merit; meritoriousness; worth.
  • n. Specifically, moral excellence; integrity of character; purity of soul; performance of duty.
  • n. A particular moral excellence.
  • n. Specifically: Chastity; purity; especially, the chastity of women; virginity.
  • n. One of the orders of the celestial hierarchy.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Manly spirit; bravery; valor; daring; courage.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A particular moral excellence: as, the virtue of temperance or of charity.
  • n. Specifically, female purity; chastity.
  • n. Any good quality, merit, or admirable faculty.
  • n. An inherent power; a property capable of producing certain effects; strength; force; potency; efficacy; influence, especially active influence, and often medicinal efficacy.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A mighty work; a miracle.
  • n. Synonyms Morals, Ethics, etc. (see morality); probity, integrity, rectitude, worth.

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

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

Etymologies

Middle English vertu, from Old French, from Latin virtūs, manliness, excellence, goodness, from vir, man.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English vertu, from Anglo-Norman vertu, Middle French vertu, from Latin virtus ("manliness, bravery, worth, moral excellence"), from vir ("man"); see virile. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

    A Manual of Moral Philosophy

  • 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!

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

    Archive 2007-08-01

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

    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

  • 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

  • You and De Thou, who pride yourselves on what you call virtue -- you have failed in causing the death of perhaps a hundred thousand men -- at once and in the broad daylight -- for no end, while Richelieu and I have caused the death of far fewer, one by one, and by night, to found a great power.

    The French Immortals Series — Complete

Comments

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

    February 20, 2008