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Virtue (Latin: virtus, Ancient Greek: ἀρετή "arete") is moral excellence.


  • Omnium rerum domina, virtus. Virtue is the mistress of all things. Virtue is the master of all things. Therefore a nation that should never do wrong must necessarily govern the world. The might of virtue, the power of virtue, is not a very common topic, not so common as it should be.
  • Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean... it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.
    • Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics (c. 325 BC), Book II, Ch. 6.
  • A difficult form of virtue is to try in your own life to obey what you believe to be God's will.
    • John Duke Coleridge, Reg. v. Ramsey (1883), 1 CabaM and Ellis's Q. B. D. Rep. 145; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 244.
  • Persecution is a very easy form of virtue.
    • John Duke Coleridge, Reg. v. Ramsey (1883), 1 Cababd and Ellis's Q. B. D. Rep. 145; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 244.
  • To be able to practise five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue...gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.
  • To gain a reputation for virtue, grieve over those you injure.
    • Mason Cooley, American aphorist. City Aphorisms, Fourth Selection (1987).
  • Only Virtue is sufficient unto herself. She makes us love the living and remember the dead.
  • "I know, of course, nothing about vice; but I have known virtue when it was very tiresome."
    "Ah, then it was a poor affair. It was poor virtue. The best virtue is never tiresome."
    Miss Vivian looked at him a little, with her fine discriminating eye.
    "What a dreadful thing to have to think any virtue poor!"
  • Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Virtue is doing it.
    • David Starr Jordan, "Ideals of Stanford", quoted in The Land of Sunshine: A Southern California Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Los Angeles, June 1898), p. 11.
  • Virtues are dispositions not only to act in particular ways, but also to feel in particular ways. To act virtuously is not, as Kant was later to think, to act against inclination; it is to act from inclination formed by the cultivation of the virtues.
  • Everybody makes fun of virtue, which by now has, as its primary meaning, an affection of prudery practiced by hypocrites and the impotent.
  • Let this great maxim be my virtue’s guide,—
    In part she is to blame that has been tried:
    He comes too near that comes to be denied.
  • Virtue is not a chemical product, as Taine once described it: it is a historic product, like language and literature; and this means that if we cease to care about it, cease to cultivate it, cease to transmit its funded values, a large part of it will become meaningless, like a dead language to which we have lost the key. That, I submit, is what has happened in our own lifetime.
  • Between two vices, virtue does not always dwell, but often, but all too often only weakness and lame impotence.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, “David Strauss,” § 1.11, cited in W. Kauffman, Nietzsche, p. 136.
  • Aristotle and the other classics observed that democracy was constantly prone to overestimate those virtues (manly courage, patriotism, piety) that were within the reach of the poor majority, while neglecting those virtues or excellences requiring unusual capacity, education, leisure, and broad political experience.
    • Thomas L. Pangle, Introduction to The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism (Chicago: 1989), p. xix.
  • What need is there of long journeying on the land or voyaging on the seas to seek and search for virtue, whose roots have been set by their Maker ever so near us, as the wise legislator of the Jews also says, “in thy mouth, in thy heart and in thy hand,” thereby indicating in a figure, words, thoughts and actions?
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 68.
  • Those who prefer idleness to labor, not only prevent the growths but also wither and destroy the roots. But those who consider inaction mischievous and are willing to labor, do as the husbandman does with fine young shoots. By constant care they rear the virtues into stems rising up to heaven, saplings ever blooming and immortal, bearing and never ceasing to bear the fruits of happiness, or as some hold, not so much bearing as being in themselves that happiness.
    • Philo, Every Good Man is Free, 69.
  • As the saints and prophets were often forced to practise long vigils and fastings and prayers before their ecstasies would fall upon them and their visions would appear, so Virtue in its purest and most exalted form can only be acquired by means of severe and long continued culture of the mind. Persons with feeble and untrained intellects may live according to their conscience; but the conscience itself will be defective. … To cultivate the intellect is therefore a religious duty; and when this truth is fairly recognized by men, the religion which teaches that the intellect should be distrusted and that it should be subservient to faith, will inevitably fall.
  • The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.
    • Elizabeth Taylor, as quoted in The Seven Deadly Sins (2000) by Steven Schwartz, p. 23.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Virtue consists in doing our duty in the several relations we sustain in respect to ourselves, to our fellow men, and to God, as known from reason, conscience, and revelation.
  • The paths of virtue, though seldom those of worldly greatness, are always those of pleasantness and peace.
  • Virtue is not a mushroom, that springeth up of itself in one night when we are asleep, or regard it not; but a delicate plant, that groweth slowly and tenderly, needing much pains to cultivate it, much care to guard it, much time to mature it, in our untoward soil, in this world's unkindly weather.
  • No state of virtue is complete, however total the virtue, save as it is won by a conflict with evil, and fortified by the struggles of a resolute and even bitter experience.
  • What the world calls virtue is a name and a dream without Christ. The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer's cross, and in the power of His resurrection.
  • A virtuous youth and frugal manhood always create a Pisgah for the veteran in righteousness, from which he may calmly survey the stars, and read his " title clear to mansions in the skies," while yet in the flesh he can soar on the wings of meditation above the clouds, and catch glimpses of the heavenly world that lies in the placid and everlasting orient before him.

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