Difference Between Amoral and Immoral (With Table)

The word ‘moral’ comes from the Latin word ‘morālis’ which means ‘custom’. As an adjective word, moral stands for things or people that follow accepted behaviour or customs. Both the words amoral and immoral are related to morality. It is quite easy to understand that immoral is the opposite word of moral. But what about amoral? What is the difference between the two words amoral and immoral?

Amoral vs Immoral

The main difference between amoral and immoral is that the word amoral stands for disregard or lack of morality, whereas the word immoral stands for not following the basic standards of morality. Amoral is carrying out an act without being concerned with morality. While immoral is knowing what is wrong and what is right but carrying out a wrong act intentionally.

Amoral is an adjective that describes something or someone that is neither immoral nor moral. As an example, we can say infants can be amoral as they do not develop the brain capacity to understand what is right and what is wrong. In some cases, extreme sociopaths are also considered amoral, since they lack the conscience as a result of cognitive disorder.

Immoral is an adjective that describes something or someone that does not follow the basic standards of morality. An immoral person can differentiate what is right and wrong, but they do not follow the right path. Immoral behaviour implies thinking and acting in a way that violates one’s sense of morality.

Comparison Table Between Amoral and Immoral

Parameters of Comparison AmoralImmoral
Definition Amoral implies indifference to morality or lacking a moral sense. It stands for disregard or lack of morality.Immoral means not following the sense of morality despite having an understanding of what is wrong and what is right.
Perspective Amoral represents a neutral position towards the sense of morality, as there is a lack of moral sense.Immoral suggests negative implications.
People Amoral can be used to refer to infants, extreme sociopaths who are suffering a cognitive disorder, etc.Immoral can be used to refer to a cruel, wicked or unethical person who violates his sense of morality.
UsageThe word amoral was introduced to the language by the author named Robert Louis Stephenson in the 19th century.The word immoral has a longer history compared to the word amoral.
Example Infants can be amoral as they do not develop the brain capacity to understand what is right and what is wrong.If a person with mental stability steals someone’s property or asset, it will be considered an immoral act.

What is Amoral?

Amoral is an adjective that describes something or someone that is neither immoral nor moral. The word ‘amoral’ appeared in the late 19th century. The prefix ‘a’ in the word ‘amoral’ means “without” or “not” as in asymptomatic or atypical. Amoral implies indifference to morality or lacking a moral sense. It stands for disregard or lack of morality. 

The word ‘amoral’ has an interesting root. This word is a combination of Greek and Latin words. The prefix ‘a’ is a Greek privative prefix that stands for “not” and the word ‘moral’ is a Latin word. The word was introduced in the 19th century by the English author Robert Louis Stephenson to differentiate the immoral act from it.

As an example, we can say an infant is amoral. They are generally indifferent to right and wrong. They lack the mental ability to identify right and wrong. In some cases, extreme sociopaths are also considered amoral, since they lack the conscience as a result of cognitive disorder. 

However, amoral can be used to describe anything or any person who is not aware of what is right action and what is the wrong action. It represents a neutral position towards the sense of morality.

What is Immoral?

Immoral is the complete opposite of moral. Immoral means not following the sense of morality despite having an understanding of what is wrong and what is right. Immoral represents a negative sense and is used to describe a cruel, wicked, evil or unethical person.

An immoral person is aware of what is right and what is wrong but chooses the wrong act and does not follow the sense of morality. Thus, villains in novels and films can be described as immoral. Immoral can be used to refer to a cruel, wicked or unethical person who violates his sense of morality.

After the formation of immoral, the negative prefix ‘im’ connects with the word ‘moral’. The word immoral is used to describe a behaviour or person that always goes against the accepted standards of morality. Accepted standards of morality are, the ideal beliefs and ideas about how to properly behave in such a way that the majority of people considered it good and right.

The word immoral is a true antonym of moral and connotes the intent of wrongdoing or evilness. For instance, if a person with mental stability steals someone’s property or assets he or she will be considered an immoral person.

Main Differences Between Amoral and Immoral

  1. Amoral implies indifference to morality or lacking a moral sense. Whereas, Immoral means not following the sense of morality despite having an understanding of what is wrong and what is right.
  2. Amoral represents a neutral position towards the sense of morality, but Immoral represents a negative sense and is used to describe a cruel, wicked, evil or unethical person.
  3. Amoral can be used to refer to extreme sociopaths or infants who don’t have any sense of morality. On the other hand, Immoral can be used to refer to a cruel, wicked or unethical person who violates his sense of morality.
  4. The word amoral was introduced in the 19th century by the English author Robert Louis Stephenson to differentiate the immoral act from it. On the other hand, the word immoral has a longer history compared to the word amoral.
  5. The word amoral is neither immoral nor moral, it is somewhere in between these two words where there is the indifference of sense of morality, whereas immoral is a true antonym of moral.

Conclusion

Both amoral and immoral are related to morality which is the understanding of the distinction between right and wrong. People tend to confuse and use these two words interchangeably. Since these two words have different meanings these two words should not be interchanged. 

Amoral implies indifference to morality or lacking a moral sense whereas, immoral implies not following the sense of morality despite having an understanding of what is wrong and what is right.

Generally, an amoral person does a wrong act unknowingly as he/she cannot understand the accepted standards of morality, whereas an immoral person does the wrong act on purpose as he/she can differentiate right and wrong.

References

  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0034408560510607?journalCode=urea20
  2. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=EAYPEAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=immoral+meaning+&ots=CDEykHogR0&sig=_qnF9DZ6nQ4lQSVx0PKfigfVZ9Y&redir_esc=y
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