[ rahy-chuhs ]
/ ˈraɪ tʃəs /
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See synonyms for: righteous / righteouses / righteously on Thesaurus.com


characterized by uprightness or morality: a righteous observance of the law.
morally right or justifiable: righteous indignation.
acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous: a righteous and godly person.
Slang. absolutely genuine or wonderful: some righteous playing by a jazz great.


the righteous, (used with a plural verb) righteous persons collectively.


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Origin of righteous

First recorded before 900; earlier rightwos, rightwis (remodeled with -ous), Middle English; Old English rihtwīs; see right, wise2



right, righteous , rightful
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does righteous mean?

Righteous is an adjective that means virtuous, honorable, or morally right.

Being righteous means doing what is right—obeying the law or adhering to morals. It is often used in a religious context.

Example: It’s not easy to engage in righteous behavior—in fact, if an action is difficult to take, it’s probably right!

Where does righteous come from?

Records of righteous date back to before the 900s. It descends from the Old English word rihtwīs, which was formed from riht, meaning “right,” and wīs, referring to a manner or way of acting (as seen in words like otherwise and clockwise). Eventually, the word was altered with the adjectival suffix -ous.

Simply put, righteous describes someone who does what is right (especially all the time) according to certain laws or morals. The word can be applied to people or their actions, or to things like laws that are considered morally just. (The right in righteous means “just,” “good,” or “correct,” rather than the opposite of “left.”)

Righteous is used frequently in the context of legal or moral judgments and religious matters. The word is often used in phrases like righteous indignation or righteous anger to describe someone showing strong displeasure about some kind of injustice. The common term self-righteous is applied to people who are overly confident in their morality, especially when they criticize others.

Rightful can sometimes be used in the same way as righteous (meaning “in accordance with what is just”), but rightful is more commonly used to mean “having a valid claim” (as in rightful owner).

Righteous is sometimes used as a slang term meaning “excellent,” but this can sound a bit outdated.

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What are some other forms related to righteous?

  • righteousness (noun)
  • righteously (adverb)
  • overrighteous (adjective)
  • unrighteous (adjective)
  • the righteous (noun)
  • self-righteous (adjective)

What are some synonyms for righteous?

What are some words that share a root or word element with righteous

What are some words that often get used in discussing righteous?

What are some words righteous may be commonly confused with?

How is righteous used in real life?

Righteous is used to describe the moral character of a person or the fairness or justness of laws or rules. Because of this, it most often appears in the context of topics like criminal law, religion, and ethics.



Try using righteous!

Which of the following things is a righteous person most likely to do?

A. cheat on a test
B. return a lost wallet to its owner
C. ignore a traffic light
D. rob a bank

Example sentences from the Web for righteous

British Dictionary definitions for righteous

/ (ˈraɪtʃəs) /


  1. characterized by, proceeding from, or in accordance with accepted standards of morality, justice, or uprightness; virtuousa righteous man
  2. (as collective noun; preceded by the)the righteous
morally justifiable or right, esp from one's own point of viewrighteous indignation

Derived forms of righteous

righteously, adverbrighteousness, noun

Word Origin for righteous

Old English rīhtwīs, from right + wise ²
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