see also: Virtue
  • (RP) IPA: /ˈvɜːtʃuː/, /-tjuː/
  • (GA) IPA: /ˈvɝtʃu/


  1. (uncountable) Accordance with moral principles; conformity of behaviour or thought with the strictures of morality; good moral conduct. [from 13th c.]
    Without virtue, there is no freedom.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, XV.1:
      There are a set of religious, or rather moral, writers, who teach that virtue is the certain road to happiness, and vice to misery, in this world.
  2. A particular manifestation of moral excellence in a person; an admirable quality. [from 13th c.]
    • 1766, Laurence Sterne, Sermon XLIV:
      Some men are modest, and seem to take pains to hide their virtues; and, from a natural distance and reserve in their tempers, scarce suffer their good qualities to be known […] .
  3. Specifically, each of several qualities held to be particularly important, including the four cardinal virtues, the three theological virtues, or the seven virtues opposed to the seven deadly sins. [from 14th c.]
  4. An inherently advantageous or excellent quality of something or someone; a favourable point, an advantage. [from 14th c.]
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe:
      There were divers other plants, which I had no notion of or understanding about, that might, perhaps, have virtues of their own, which I could not find out.
    • 2011, The Guardian, Letter, 14 Mar 2011
      One virtue of the present coalition government's attack on access to education could be to reopen the questions raised so pertinently by Robinson in the 1960s […] .
  5. A creature embodying divine power, specifically one of the orders of heavenly beings, traditionally ranked above angels and below archangels. [from 14th c.]
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book X:
      Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers; / For in possession such, not only of right, / I call ye, and declare ye now […] .
  6. (uncountable) Specifically, moral conduct in sexual behaviour, especially of women; chastity. [from 17th c.]
  7. (obsolete) The inherent power of a god, or other supernatural being. [13th–19th c.]
  8. The inherent power or efficacy of something (now only in phrases). [from 13th c.]
    • 1801, Robert Southey, Thalaba the Destroyer:
      There was a virtue in the wave;
      His limbs, that, stiff with toil,
      Dragg’d heavy, from the copious draught receiv’d
      Lightness and supple strength.
    • 2011, "The autumn of the patriarchs", The Economist, 17 Feb 2011:
      many Egyptians still worry that the Brotherhood, by virtue of discipline and experience, would hold an unfair advantage if elections were held too soon.
Synonyms Antonyms Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations
Proper noun
  1. Surname

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