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  1. moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
  2. conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
  3. chastity; virginity: to lose one's virtue.
  4. a particular moral excellence.Compare cardinal virtues, natural virtue, theological virtue.
  5. a good or admirable quality or property: the virtue of knowing one's weaknesses.
  6. effective force; power or potency: a charm with the virtue of removing warts.
  7. virtues, an order of angels.Compare angel(def 1).
  8. manly excellence; valor.
  1. by/in virtue of, by reason of; because of: to act by virtue of one's legitimate authority.
  2. 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 formsvir·tue·less, adjectivevir·tue·less·ness, nounnon·vir·tue, noun

Synonyms for virtue

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1. See goodness. 2. probity, integrity.

Antonyms for virtue

1. vice. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for virtues

Contemporary Examples of virtues

Historical Examples of virtues

  • They catalogued Dick's virtues, and then Viviette unfolded her scheme.


    William J. Locke

  • Around them was a radiance of virtues and graces from the first hour of their meeting.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • And yet the courage of the soldier is the commonest of virtues.

  • The virtues of Virginia sprang from sentiment; those of Belinda from reason.

  • The virtues which accompanied him into public life did not desert him in private.

British Dictionary definitions for virtues


pl n
  1. (often capital) the fifth of the nine orders into which the angels are traditionally divided in medieval angelology


  1. the quality or practice of moral excellence or righteousness
  2. a particular moral excellencethe virtue of tolerance
  3. any of the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) or theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity)
  4. any admirable quality, feature, or trait
  5. chastity, esp in women
  6. archaic an effective, active, or inherent power or force
  7. by virtue of or in virtue of on account of or by reason of
  8. 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 Formsvirtueless, adjective

Word Origin for virtue

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

Word Origin and History for virtues



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

Idioms and Phrases with virtues


see by virtue of; make a virtue of necessity.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.