Word Confusion:Ethic versus Moral

Posted September 27, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Essentially ethic and moral are the same concept of right versus wrong conduct, except the ethical rules are set by society, whether it’s the tribe, the culture, the religious group, or professional organizations while the moral principles are the ones the individual holds to.

You may also want to explore the Word Confusion post “Moral vs Morale vs Morel“.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Ethic Moral
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: ethics; Oxford Dictionaries: ethic

A profile of Orson Welles' face surrounded by reporters in a black-and-white photo

Orson Welles War of the Worlds, 1938, by Acme News Photos (eBayfrontback) is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

It was the action of a man of ethics who strove to explain it was merely a radio show hoax.


The dalai lama in a yellow robe with two acolytes in red bow to the left

Dalai Lama @ MIT by Christopher.Michel is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

I suspect the Dalai Lama is the last of the religious leaders to actually have morals.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective;
Noun, singular;
Plural noun: ethics
Adjective; Noun
Plural for noun: morals
Societal rules of right and wrong


Adjective:
[Rare] Relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these

Noun:
A set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, culture, group, or form of conduct

  • [Uses a singular verb] The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles

A complex of moral precepts held or rules of conduct followed by an individual

Plural noun:
Moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity

  • The moral correctness of specified conduct
Personal rules of right and wrong


Adjective:
Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character

  • Concerned with or derived from the code of interpersonal behavior that is considered right or acceptable in a particular society
  • [Attrib.] Examining the nature of ethics and the foundations of good and bad character and conduct

Holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct

Noun:
A lesson, especially one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience

[morals] A person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do

Examples:
Adjective:
The ethic question is of wider import.

I think there is an ethic question here.

Of course these ethic questions must be answered in the comfort of your own home safe and warm at night.

Noun:
The puritan ethic was being replaced by the hedonist ethic.

The Christian ethic is one of virtuous behavior that would please Jesus.

When a bureaucrat wields authority for which they were not elected, they must apply a personal ethic.

“An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain.” – Gregg Easterbrook

Is the core ethic of our society to maximize personal wealth?

But a strong work ethic was instilled in him at an early age.

Plural noun:
Medical ethics also enter into the question.

There exists a code of ethics in most branches of medicine and science, not that everyone adheres to them.

Many scientists question the ethics of cruel experiments.

Medical ethics forbid doing harm.

Christian ethics seem to go by the wayside when inconvenient.

His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.

Cultural ethics vary from people to people.

Adjective:
We must consider the moral dimensions of medical intervention.

Hey, it was my moral judgment.

An individual’s ambitions may get out of step with the general moral code.

The moral obligation of society to do something about the inner city’s problems.

Those moral philosophers live in a cloud.

He prides himself on being a highly moral and ethical person.

Noun:
The moral of this story was that one must see the beauty in what one has.

This is a corruption of public morals.

They believe addicts have no morals and cannot be trusted.

The Moral Majority was a right-wing movement in the US in the 1970s who were determined to impose their sense of right and wrong on others.

Derivatives:
Adjective: ethical, nonethic
Adverb: ethically
Noun: ethicality, ethicist
Adjective: moralistic
Adverb: moralistically, moralizingly, morally
Noun: moralism, moralist, moralities, morality, moralization, moralizer
Verb: moralize, moralized, moralizes, moralizing
History of the Word:
Late Middle English (denoting ethics or moral philosophy; also used attributively), is from the Old French éthique, from the Latin ethice, which is from the Greek () ēthikē (tekhnē) meaning (the science of) morals, based on ēthos. Late Middle English from the Latin moralis, which is from mos, mor- meaning custom, the plural mores means morals.

As a noun the word was first used to translate Latin Moralia, the title of St Gregory the Great’s moral exposition of the Book of Job and was subsequently applied to the works of various classical writers.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

The Fin de Siècle Newspaper Proprietor by Frederick Burr Opper is courtesy of the Library of Congress and in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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