From ethic +‎ -al, from Late Latin ethicus(moral, ethical), from Ancient Greek ἠθικός(ēthikós, of or for morals, moral, expressing character), from ἦθος(êthos, character, moral nature).



ethical ‎(comparative more ethical, superlative most ethical)

  1. (philosophy, not comparable) Of or relating to the study of ethics.
    The philosopher Kant is particularly known for his ethical writings.
  2. (not comparable) Of or relating to the accepted principles of right and wrong, especially those of some organization or profession.
    All employees must familiarize themselves with our ethical guidelines.
  3. (comparable) Morally approvable, when referring to an action that affects others; good.
    We are trying to decide what the most ethical course of action would be.
  4. (of a drug, not comparable) Only dispensed on the prescription of a physician.
    In most jurisdictions, morphine is classified as an ethical drug.

Usage notesEdit

  • In general usage ethical is used to describe standards of behavior between individuals, while moral or immoral can describe any behavior. You can call lying unethical or immoral, for example, because it involves the behavior of one person and how it affects another, but violating dietary prohibitions in a holy text can only be described as immoral.

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ethical ‎(plural ethicals)

  1. An ethical drug.

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