An ethic is framework, or guiding principle, and it's often moral. People with a strong work ethic believe that hard work is a good thing in and of itself.

A social ethic might include "treating people as you want to be treated." Used in the plural, ethics refers to the moral rules that you live by. You can use it generally, as in: "my ethics don’t include cheating." Or you can use it specifically, as in: "Slander and the running of negative ads do not seem to contradict the senator’s political ethics."

Definitions of ethic

n the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual or a social group

“the Puritan ethic
moral principle, value orientation, value-system
the principles of a body of 19th century English reformers who advocated better social and economic conditions for working people
Type of:
a rule or standard especially of good behavior

n a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct

ethical code
double standard
an ethical or moral code that applies more strictly to one group than to another
double standard of sexual behavior
a code that permits greater sexual freedom for men than for women (associated with the subordination of women)
Type of:
system, system of rules
a complex of methods or rules governing behavior

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