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moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
chastity; virginity:
to lose one’s virtue.
a particular moral excellence.
Compare cardinal virtues, natural virtue, theological virtue.
a good or admirable quality or property:
the virtue of knowing one’s weaknesses.
effective force; power or potency:
a charm with the virtue of removing warts.
virtues, an order of angels.
Compare angel (def 1).
manly excellence; valor.
by / in virtue of, by reason of; because of:
to act by virtue of one’s legitimate authority.
make a virtue of necessity, to make the best of a difficult or unsatisfactory situation.
Contemporary Examples

A Nobel Smackdown in Liberia: Leymah Gbowee vs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Abigail Pesta October 9, 2012
The Dirty Little Secret of Motherhood Laura Bennett December 8, 2008
Why Favoritism Is Virtuous: The Case Against Fairness Stephen T. Asma December 6, 2012
Marijuana Fights Cancer and Helps Manage Side Effects, Researchers Find Martin A. Lee September 5, 2012
Britain’s Embrace of Gay Marriage Alex Massie September 18, 2011

Historical Examples

Miracles of Our Lord George MacDonald
Philothea Lydia Maria Child
Christianity and Modern Thought Various
Philothea Lydia Maria Child
A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 2 (of 10) Franois-Marie Arouet (AKA Voltaire)

the quality or practice of moral excellence or righteousness
a particular moral excellence: the virtue of tolerance
any of the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) or theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity)
any admirable quality, feature, or trait
chastity, esp in women
(archaic) an effective, active, or inherent power or force
by virtue of, in virtue of, on account of or by reason of
make a virtue of necessity, to acquiesce in doing something unpleasant with a show of grace because one must do it in any case

For my part I honour with the name of virtue the habit of acting in a way troublesome to oneself and useful to others. [Stendhal “de l’Amour,” 1822]

Phrase by virtue of (early 13c.) preserves alternative Middle English sense of “efficacy.” Wyclif Bible has virtue where KJV uses power. The seven cardinal virtues (early 14c.) were divided into the natural (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude) and the theological (hope, faith, charity). To make a virtue of a necessity (late 14c.) translates Latin facere de necessitate virtutem [Jerome].

by virtue of
make a virtue of necessity


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