virtue

EnglishEdit

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Alternative formsEdit

EtymologyEdit

Middle English vertu, from Anglo-Norman vertu, Middle French vertu, from Latin virtus (manliness, bravery, worth, moral excellence), from vir (man); see virile.

PronunciationEdit

  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈvəː.tjuː/, /ˈvəː.tʃuː/
  • (file)

NounEdit

virtue (countable and uncountable, plural virtues)

  1. (obsolete) The inherent power of a god, or other supernatural being. [13th-19th c.]
  2. The inherent power or efficacy of something (now only in phrases). [from 13th c.]
    • 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.
  3. (uncountable) Accordance with moral principles; conformity of behaviour or thought with the strictures of morality; good moral conduct. [from 13th c.]
    • 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.
  4. 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 [...].
  5. 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.]
    • 1813, John Fleetwood, The Life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ:
      The divine virtues of truth and equity are the only bands of friendship, the only supports of society.
  6. 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 [...].
  7. 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 [...].
  8. (uncountable) Specifically, moral conduct in sexual behaviour, especially of women; chastity. [from 17th c.]
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice:
      though she did not suppose Lydia to be deliberately engaging in an elopement without the intention of marriage, she had no difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.

AntonymsEdit

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See alsoEdit

TranslationsEdit

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Last modified on 18 April 2014, at 17:02