Difference Between Ethics and Morals

In the fast and fact-based world that we live in today, things like ethics and morals have been left behind.

Due to the daily life hustle, we have forgotten about these concepts which for the ground for humanity to exist.

Often used interchangeably, both these concepts relate to the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ conduct. However, it would be wrong to say that both of them mean exactly the same.

Ethics vs Morals

Ethics refer to the rules and regulations, mostly provided by an external source. For instance, the code of conduct at the workplace or at a court and even principles embedded in the numerous religions.

Morals, on the other hand, relate to the principles of an individual for himself which he considers right or wrong, per se.

Ethics necessarily come from an outside source such as an institution etc. Morals are also influenced by the society or/and culture, but at the end, are one’s own personal beliefs.

Ethics vs Morals

To better explain the difference, we take an example of a defence attorney.

Even though the law and morals state that a criminal must be punished for his crimes, a defence attorney is required to defend him because of her ethics as a professional lawyer, even if she is acquainted by the fact that he is guilty.


Comparison Table Between Ethics and Morals (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonEthicsMorals
MeaningThey are rules or code of conduct which are recognised with respect to a specific class or group of people.They are individual principles or habits pertaining to the concept of right or wrong conduct. It is at a personal level.
Source of OriginThey originate from external sources.They originate from internal sources.
Reason for DoingThe major reason why ethics are followed is because the society believes something is right to be done.Morals are mainly followed because an individual himself/herself think it is the right thing to do.
Originating wordThey come from the Greek word ‘Ethos’ which means ‘character’.They come from the Latin word ‘Mos’ which means ‘custom’.
AcceptabilityEthics are governed by principles or guidelines which are legal or professional in nature and are considered at a specific time and place.Morals surpass cultural or professional boundaries or norms.
FlexibilityEthics are dependent on an external source, which generally remains constant with reference to a specific context but may have difference with respect to another context.Morals largely remain constant. However, they may change with a change in the beliefs of an individual.


What are Ethics?

Ethics come from the Greek word ‘Ethos’, which literally means ‘character’.

Ethics are external standards set by an institution, a group or a culture. These are required to be followed the persons who belong to that particular institution, group or culture.

For instance, lawyers, doctors, police personnel etc. have a set external code of conduct which is required to be followed by them.

With reference to the consistency of ethics, they are generally quite consistent with regards to a specific context. However, they may vary with change in context.

Ethics are generally followed because of the society’s belief that they are the right thing to do. In other words, they are stringently required to be followed by the people relating to the body which governs them.

They can also be understood from the idea of that of a social system or a framework relating to acceptable behaviour.

Ethics are outside attributes, which the society requires a person to follow. A person may or may not individually or morally be in favour of all the classes of ethics which are established.


What are Morals?

Morals, technically, come from the Latin term ‘Mos’ which means ‘custom’.

Morals are an individual’s beliefs and ideas of right and wrong conduct. They are followed by individuals with their own will and understanding.

Even though, morals too are influenced by external factors such as culture or society, but towards the end, they are determined and followed by an individual himself/ herself.

Unlike ethics, morals are not set by an external body and people of a particular group are not obligated to follow them.

However, they are socially acceptable standards of morality which an individual takes upon himself to interpret and then follow.

With respect to their consistency, they do not change frequently but might undergo a change with the change in the beliefs and ideals of an individual.

In simple words, morals are personal principles which are created, followed and upheld, altogether, by an individual himself.

They can also be understood as the kind of actions which a rational person would perform to a particular situation. This is precisely the reason why there most certainly exist a conflict between morals and ethics.


Main Differences Between Ethics and Morals

Ethics and morals are both attributes of right and wrong conduct of a being, either in a particular place or normally everywhere.

Even so, there do exist certain significant differences between both the terms.

  1. The first and the foremost difference between Ethics and Morals is the entity which forms them. In other words, ethics are created and formulated by an external authority, whether organisations, institutions, particular groups or classes of people, even certain religions. Morals, however, are personal beliefs of individuals which they deem to categorise into right or wrong conduct.
  2. Another important distinction is that ethics are followed because society requires for the people to follow, with respect to a particular group of people. On the contrary, morals, though influenced by society and culture, but they are determined and followed on an individual’s will.
  3. Furthermore, the word ethics originate from a Greek word ‘Ethos’ which means ‘character’ and the word morals originate from a Latin word ‘Mos’ which means ‘custom’.
  4. Moreover, ethics are generally in terms of legal or professional principles that a certain entity requires for its associates to follow whereas morals transcend all the cultural and professional boundaries.
  5. Last, but not the least, ethics are mostly consistent with respect to a specific context but may exhibit a change with respect to different context. Morals of an individual generally do not undergo change but may be subjective to change when person’s beliefs changes.
Difference Between Ethics and Morals



Ethics and morals are two sides of the same coin.

Ethics would mean moral philosophies one is required to follow due to the external factors. Morals would mean moral philosophies which one follows as per his/her own will and understanding.

Both of them at times may end up conflicting each other. However, it is important to understand that both these concepts are necessary to be followed to maintain peace and harmony.

Key Differences Between Ethics and Morals (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Ethics and Morals



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1154783/
  2. https://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/(ASCE)1052-3928(1991)117:2(88)
AskAnyDifference HomeClick here
Search for "Ask Any Difference" on Google. Rate this post!
[Total: 0]
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments