The word “moral” describes what is right from wrong, while “morale” references the capacity to feel enthusiastic, obedient, and optimistic.
What is the difference between moral and morale?
Moral and morale might have similar spellings, but these words definitely don’t mean the same thing:
- Moral(s) involve standards for good or bad character and behavior, and they are generally guided by organized values or virtues informed by experience –– not the law.
- Morale references a person or group’s capacity to feel enthusiasm, obedience, and optimism (especially in the face of opposition).
What is the definition of moral?
The noun moral (plural morals) references acceptable forms of conduct, the principles of right and wrong, or a lesson derived from a story or experience.
- “The CEO’s morals were questionable at best.”
- “When it comes to competition, his morals fly out the door.”
- “The general notion of the campaign goes against our morals.”
- “The moral of the story is: don’t walk into a bear den and eat the bear’s porridge.”
- “If you find someone’s wallet, returning it is the moral thing to do.”
- “We have a moral obligation to save the environment.”
- “They are a diligent, moral crew.”
Noun: Axiom, belief, canon, doctrine, dogma, gospel, law, norm, principle, rule, standard, theory, tenet, truism, value.
Adjective: Conscientious, conscionable, decent, ethical, good, honest, honorable, just, nice, principled, right, right-minded, righteous, scrupulous, straight, true, upright, virtuous.
Adjective: Bad, cutthroat, dishonest, dishonorable, evil, immoral, indecent, sinful, unconscionable, unethical, unjust, unprincipled, unrighteous, unscrupulous, wicked, wrong.
How to pronounce moral?
Moral is pronounced like “more-all” (emphasis on the first syllable).
Etymology of moral
Late Middle English moral stems from Anglo-French via Latin moralis, where mos, mor- means “custom,” and plural mores means “morals.” According to Lexico, the noun first appeared to translate Latin Moralia from St Gregory the Great’s interpretation of the Book of Job.
What is the definition of morale?
Morale is a mass noun referencing an individual or group’s level of confidence, enthusiasm, obedience, or discipline at a particular time (especially in times of hardship). The noun is akin to “esprit de corps,” meaning a common spirit within a group that inspires strong regard for their honor and the pursuit of a common purpose.
- “For sports teams, high morale is an important quality to possess.”
- “Authority figures can raise team morale during times of hardship.”
- “The pronouncement strengthened morale, yielding cheers from afar.”
Confidence, mental state, self-confidence, self-esteem.
How to pronounce morale?
Morale is pronounced as “more-al” (emphasis on the second syllable).
Etymology of morale
According to Lexico, 18th-century morale stems from French moral. The English version “respells” moral to preserve the final stress in French pronunciation.
Is it wrong to write “good morals” in a sentence?
The adjective “good” describes something as beneficial, satisfactory, or even… moral. And since “moral” already implies the meaning of “good,” it is unnecessary to write “good morals” together in a sentence.
“Good results” = correct
“Good morale” = correct
“Good morals” = correct but still unnecessary
Published examples of moral
- “They, too, speak the language of wellness and seem to share the same elevated morals (or the elevated morals we project on them).” — The New York Times Magazine
- “The moral of the story for Galileo was that some natural phenomena have explanations we haven’t yet learned.” — Scientific American
- “The inevitability of morals in an organization suggests that an internal clash of values is similarly unavoidable.” — Forbes
- “Now, as then, the media will pretend that the moral fabric of the nation must be mended after GOP rule.” — New York Post
- “He has a moral compass that’s telling him he doesn’t quite understand the situation, but he understands that something’s wrong.” — Vulture
- “By suspending that global norm, the U.S. and the whaling commission will be ceding the legal and even the moral high ground to the very countries that, for decades, have been doing their best to circumvent it.” — Los Angeles Times
Published examples of morale
- “The buyouts have hurt morale and the papers’ ability to do the kind of journalism they are accustomed to doing, said journalists at eight Tribune newsrooms.” — The New York Times
- “There is little doubt that both publications did a good deal to boost morale among the reading public (the first issue of PNW sold 80,000 copies)…” — The Spectator
- “Staffing shortages are affecting morale to the point that some employees are walking off on the job in the middle of their shifts…” — KESQ
FAQ: Related to moral vs. morale
Morals and ethics: are they the same thing?
In the broad context of philosophy, ethics are informed by the existence of morals, but they are ultimately separate concepts. Put another way–– ethics are equated to the human capacity to think critically, whereas morals exist because of morality, the subjective understanding of what is naturally right from wrong.
Within moral philosophy (a branch of philosophy concerned with deciphering right from wrong), ethics and morality are often discussed as one of the same. How close these associations are typically depend on whether we use the lens of meta-ethics (“what is morality?”), normative ethics (“what is moral and immoral?”), and applied ethics (“is this specific situation immoral?”).
Moral code vs. moral integrity?
A “moral code” is a set of rules incorporating a broader sense of morality, while “moral integrity” is the practice of “doing the right thing” when no one is looking.
Moral conflict vs. moral dilemma?
A moral conflict arises when two moral obligations cannot be met at once, but there is at least one morally satisfactory outcome. (For reference, a moral obligation is a charitable duty someone should perform, but is not legally required to fulfill.”)
A moral dilemma occurs when any resolution to a conflict causes some form of harm (there is no morally satisfactory outcome).
Moral hazard vs. morale hazard
According to the International Risk Management Institute (IRM), moral hazard and morale hazard are subjective hazards that often “increase the probable frequency or severity of loss due to an insured peril.” In other words, a moral or morale hazard are ways an insurance company might describe human behavior resulting in indifference to loss.
Moral hazard references someone’s conscious change in behavior as a way to benefit from an insured peril or “case of loss.” It does not imply a tendency to cause loss, but the insurance term does suggest an indifference to loss because of the existence of an insurance policy.
Morale hazard references an unconscious change in behavior that comes from not having an insurance policy. As noted by the IRM, an insurance company measures moral hazard “by the character of the insured and the circumstances surrounding the subject of the insurance, especially the extent of potential loss or gain to the insured in case of loss.”
Additional reading for moral vs. morale
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Test how well you understand the difference between moral and morale with the following multiple-choice questions.
- True or false?: “Moral” and “morale” share the same pronunciation.
- The word _________ references a set of personal guiding principles.
d. All of the above
- The word _________ references a shared mental state or “state of spirit.”
- The word moral can reference __________.
a. The cheerfulness or optimism of an individual
b. The motivation and self-discipline of a group
c. An individual or group’s proper behavior
d. The amount of confidence held by a group
- The word morality describes ___________.
a. The nature of rightness
b. The capacity of people to achieve high morale
c. Civilian morale
d. A set of social rules
- “Honesty is the best policy” is an example of a __________.
d. Subjective hazard
Choose the correct word for the following sentences:
- “The coach appreciated members of the team who worked to inspire high _________ between plays.”
- “The girl’s _________ compass kept her from claiming personal property as business deductibles.”
d. All of the above
- “The enemy’s hail of bullets brought military _________ and unit cohesion to an all-time low.”
- Castel-Branco, N. “Galileo and the Pope Fell Out over a Story about a Cicada.” Scientific American, scientificamerican.com, 9 Jul 2021.
- D’Souza, S. “The White Lotus Score Is Definitely Trying to Make You Anxious.” Vulture, vulture.com, 6 Aug 2021.
- Grigoriadis, V. “The Beauty of 78.5 Million Followers.” The New York Times Magazine, nytimes.com, 1 Jul 2021.
- “Esprit de corps.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- Harsanyi, D. “When talk of ‘unity’ just means ‘surrender.’” New York Post, nypost.com, 15 Nov 2020.
- “Moral.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
- “Moral.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- “Moral.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- “Moral Hazard.” International Risk Management Institute, irmi.com, 2021.
- “Morale.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
- “Morale.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- “Morale.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- Parker, P. “How two literary magazines boosted morale during the Blitz.” The Spectator, spectator.co.uk, 31 Jul 2021.
- Reynolds, J. “It’s no way to save the whales.” Los Angeles Times, latimes.com, 28 Apr 2010.
- Riani, A. “Is There A Place For Morals In Startups?” Forbes, forbes.com, 20 Jul 2021.
- Tokalić, R., et al. “Moral conflict and moral dilemma.” The Embassy of Good Science, Embassy.Science, 25 Mar 2021.
- Tracy, M. “Hedge Fund Buys Paper. Hedge Fund Closes Paper.” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 29 Jul 2021.