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[vur-choo] /ˈvɜr tʃu/
moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
chastity; virginity:
to lose one's virtue.
a particular moral excellence.
a good or admirable quality or property:
the virtue of knowing one's weaknesses.
effective force; power or potency:
a charm with the virtue of removing warts.
virtues, an order of angels.
Compare angel (def 1).
manly excellence; valor.
by / in virtue of, by reason of; because of:
to act by virtue of one's legitimate authority.
make a virtue of necessity, to make the best of a difficult or unsatisfactory situation.
Origin of virtue
1175-1225; alteration (with i < Latin) of Middle English vertu < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin virtūt- (stem of virtūs) maleness, worth, virtue, equivalent to vir man (see virile) + -tūt- abstract noun suffix
Related forms
virtueless, adjective
virtuelessness, noun
nonvirtue, noun
1. See goodness. 2. probity, integrity.
1. vice. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for virtue
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Let young men hear the praise of virtue from the lips of beauty.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • I asked him what reward the Helots had for bravery or virtue.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • Who, that has once trespassed with them, ever recovered his virtue?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • She made a virtue of necessity; and the man was quite another man with her. '

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • It is their virtue in life to be lonely, and none but the lonely man in tragedy may be great.

    Riders to the Sea J. M. Synge
British Dictionary definitions for virtue


/ˈvɜːtjuː; -tʃuː/
the quality or practice of moral excellence or righteousness
a particular moral excellence: the virtue of tolerance
any of the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) or theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity)
any admirable quality, feature, or trait
chastity, esp in women
(archaic) an effective, active, or inherent power or force
by virtue of, in virtue of, on account of or by reason of
make a virtue of necessity, to acquiesce in doing something unpleasant with a show of grace because one must do it in any case
Derived Forms
virtueless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: vertu, from Old French, from Latin virtūs manliness, courage, from vir man
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for virtue

early 13c., "moral life and conduct, moral excellence," vertu, from Anglo-French and Old French vertu, from Latin virtutem (nominative virtus) "moral strength, manliness, valor, excellence, worth," from vir "man" (see virile).

For my part I honour with the name of virtue the habit of acting in a way troublesome to oneself and useful to others. [Stendhal "de l'Amour," 1822]
Phrase by virtue of (early 13c.) preserves alternative Middle English sense of "efficacy." Wyclif Bible has virtue where KJV uses power. The seven cardinal virtues (early 14c.) were divided into the natural (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude) and the theological (hope, faith, charity). To make a virtue of a necessity (late 14c.) translates Latin facere de necessitate virtutem [Jerome].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with virtue
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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