When discussing a code of morals, choose the noun ethics. You might call a politician who uses taxpayer money for wild parties a little "ethics-challenged."

Ethics can mean the study of morality — what's right and wrong. When discussing this branch of philosophy, treat the word as singular, despite the "-s": "Ethics is no longer widely taught." But in the sense of "moral correctness" or "a moral code," treat it as plural: "The ethics of capital punishment are complex." Don't confuse it with ethos, which means "the characteristic spirit of a culture." (Both words come from Greek ethos, "moral character.")

Definitions of ethics

n motivation based on ideas of right and wrong

ethical motive, morality, morals
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the pursuit of pleasure as a matter of ethical principle
conscience, moral sense, scruples, sense of right and wrong
motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person's thoughts and actions
Christ Within, Inner Light, Light, Light Within
a divine presence believed by Quakers to enlighten and guide the soul
(psychoanalysis) that part of the unconscious mind that acts as a conscience
small voice, voice of conscience, wee small voice
an inner voice that judges your behavior
sense of duty, sense of shame
a motivating awareness of ethical responsibility
Type of:
motivation, motive, need
the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior

n the philosophical study of moral values and rules

moral philosophy
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the branch of ethics that studies moral values in the biomedical sciences
moral philosophy based on the application of general ethical principles to resolve moral dilemmas
endaemonism, eudemonism
an ethical system that evaluates actions by reference to personal well-being through a life based on reason
an ethical system that evaluates the pursuit of pleasure as the highest good
the study of ethical implications of treatments for neurological diseases
a Roman Catholic system of casuistry that when expert opinions differ an actor can follow any solidly probable opinion that he wishes even though some different opinion might be more probable
Type of:
the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics

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