moral and morale - the difference

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
A moral is the lesson learnt from a story.

Moral is an adjective meaning ethical or virtuous.

Morals are the standards someone adopts to determine right from wrong.

Morale means mental or emotional state (e.g., spirit or attitude).

Moral or Morale

The words moral and morale look and sound similar, but their meanings are quite different.

With the stress on the first syllable, moral rhymes with coral (as in coral reef).

With the stress on the second syllable, morale rhymes with corral. (Corral means to round up as in to corral the sheep).


As a noun, a moral is the lesson learnt from a story (e.g., the moral of the story is don't drink and drive).

The plural, morals, usually conveys a different meaning. Morals are the standards that people adopt to differentiate between acceptable (or good) behaviour and unacceptable (or bad) behaviour.

As an adjective, moral means ethical or virtuous.

For example:
  • Everything has got a moral if you can only find it. (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898)
  • (moral = a lesson we can learn from)
  • If your morals make you dreary, they are wrong. (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894)
  • (morals = standards to determine right from wrong)
  • No moral system can rest solely on authority. (A. J. Ayer, 1910-1989)
  • (moral = ethical)


As a noun, morale means mental or emotional state. It often refers to someone's spirit or attitude.

For example:
  • Your morale seems low. Are you okay?
  • I don't think we're going to solve our morale issue with a few sandwiches.
  • Studies have shown that employees' morale is directly related to their productivity.
  • Low morale will increase work errors, increase sick days, and decrease cooperation between departments.
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? immoral and amoral imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words