Immoral or Amoral?

by Craig Shrives

Immoral or Amoral?

What are the definitions of "immoral" and "amoral"?
  • "Immoral" means morally wrong.
    • Stealing is immoral.
    • Don't create more enemies than you kill with some immoral act. (General Jim Mattis)
  • "Amoral" means not related to morality.
    • Technology is amoral. It has no morality. (Professor Robert Ballard)
    • For a long time on Earth, humans didn't worship good gods. That's a new idea. Most of the ancient Greek gods and the Hindu gods are amoral. We get stuck when we insist that God be both good and all-powerful. (Author Barbara Ehrenreich)
immoral or amoral?

More about "Immoral" and "Amoral"

The confusion over "immoral" and "amoral" is understandable because words relate to not having morals (i.e., the standards or principles someone adopts to determine right from wrong). "Immoral" means not adhering to those principles, while "amoral" means not related to those principles.

Immoral

The adjective "immoral" means "not adhering to moral principles" (i.e., deliberately breaking the rules of right and wrong).

Example sentences with "immoral":
  • Stop looking at Peter's answers. Your conduct is immoral.
  • Everything I like is either illegal, immoral, or fattening. (Critic Alexander Woollcott)
  • What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after. (Writer Ernest Hemingway)

Amoral

The adjective "amoral" is technical and quite rare. It means "not related to morality." It pertains to the noun amorality. Amorality is a state in which the concept of right and wrong is invalid. Example sentences with "amoral":
  • Deciding which scent you like best is an amoral decision.
  • The scientists try not to consider whether their research is right or wrong. They are encouraged to adopt a totally amoral attitude.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? morale and moral poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are nouns? List of easily confused words