Immoral or Amoral?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Immoral" and "Amoral"?

"Immoral" and "amoral" are easy to confuse because they sound similar, and "amoral" (which is a rare word) looks like it should mean the same as "immoral" (which is a common word). However, "immoral" and "amoral" have quite different meanings.
  • "Immoral" means morally wrong.
    • Stealing is immoral. correct tick
    • Don't create more enemies than you kill with some immoral act. correct tick (General Jim Mattis)
  • "Amoral" means not related to morality.
    • Technology is amoral. It has no morality. correct tick (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.


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. correct tick
  • Everything I like is either illegal, immoral, or fattening. correct tick (Critic Alexander Woollcott)
  • What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after. correct tick (Writer Ernest Hemingway)


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. correct tick
  • The scientists try not to consider whether their research is right or wrong. They are encouraged to adopt a totally amoral attitude.correct tick

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