What Can Be a Noun for the Quality of Something to Improve us Morally?

I am looking for something along the lines of the word "edify", but a noun for a quality rather than a verb.The context I want to use this word in is "Religious Knowledge which has applicability and can be considered as having high quality". The ellipsis points should be replaced by the noun I seek for to indicate that religious knowledge which has the quality of morally improving us can be considered as having high quality.

The word 'edification' does not work for me because it I need a quality rather than a process. For example, usefulness and universality are two qualities I am using for the religious knowledge, but I cannot say: "High-quality religious knowledge has usefulness, universality, and edification" because that would be a process, which would not fit into my context.

I have checked the Apple Dictionary, as well as synonyms for edify suggested by Google and Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus on thesaurus.com. Synonyms I considered include educate, instruct, improve, teach, and enlighten. However, none of those options encompass the moral improvement part and do not fit in with religious knowledge, like the word edify does.

  • This is actually the thesis I am opposing by considering how religious knowledge causes moral degradation through certain religious practices. The above sentence is merely an acknowledgement of the opinion of the other party Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 19:47
  • Every thesis is disputable to an extent. But my question is not whether religious knowledge causes moral degradation or not. I need help with a noun for the quality I can fit in for the edification Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 2:56
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    @NigelJ — It really doesn't matter whether Erica's thesis is disputable or not, she is asking how to express it. Her request is valid and your comments are not. You are not asking for her to clarify the question or suggesting how she can improve it. And you are discouraging a relatively new user in an manner that one would not expect from a user with 9000 reputation.
    – David
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 12:27
  • @EricaMeltzer Hi, I have not voted against this question myself, but I see it has two votes against it for being unclear. I also see you used the word "edification" in the comments. Would you tell us why edification doesn't work for you? It is a noun form of edify. Also, if you could, would you document what you have done to try and find the word you seek yourself? Have you checked a thesaurus or a dictionary against edify, and if so, which ones did you check, and why were the best suggestions not helpful? It might help us to better understand what you want to communicate if you tell us that.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 13:45
  • Hi @Tonepoet, I have made the edits regarding the points you have suggested. Thank you for the tips. I have explained why edification does not work for me. I have also explained the synonyms I considered and why they were not helpful. Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 14:54

2 Answers 2


I am not sure such a noun exists, and I would resort to an adjective:

High-quality religious knowledge has usefulness, universality, and is edifying.

Oxford dictionary:

edifying. adjective

  1. Providing moral or intellectual instruction. ‘edifying literature’
  • Thank you for the answer. Though I had considered resorting to an adjective, I believe @Tonepoet's suggestion of edifyingness fits in better. Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 3:38

I suspect you have some slight misapprehensions about the -ation suffix1, because it is not so exclusive. I would explain that in detail, but it is not really of direct relevance to my answer, because you do not want to refer to the state or result either. You seem to want to refer to the quality something has which makes it able to grant that state or result through the process of edification instead. If so, I recommend Edifyingness2.

It is a rare word2, possibly archaic word, which is within the bottom 10% of words3 but the form of derivation resembles Willingness, which is a word I am sure most people recognize; what it lacks in recognizability it makes up for in etymological precision and the -ation and -ing suffixes are closely related1.

There is an importance difference between these two words is the addition of the additional final suffix the -ness suffix which denotes sometthing extra. This restricts it from being interpreted as the action itself, and instead refers to the either state of the action or the quality of the action which acts to imports the morals, the latter of which is being the definition we want. It also seems like it is the formal dictionary definition of the word, which is "The quality of being edifying."2

The word does exist in print on a few results on Google Books, and the usage in this particular late 17th century quotation seems to match the meaning you want in your exemplary sentence quite closely:

And this is that in which chiefly consist the power and edifyingness (as they call it) of their Preaching, and by which they think themselves so far to excel the Instructions of the conformable ministers; as if these could not say the Word Christ as often in an hour, as the most powerful and edifying of them; and I wonder were lies the mystery and great difficulty of this gifted sort of Rhetorick.[6]

The most recent example I can find of the word seems to be from the late 18th century, which suggests that it had a significant tradition of usage:

It cannot give him peace to despise that motion, when the judgement is convinced of the soundness and edifyingness thereof: for, in such things are most profitable to people, and which therefore the Spirit doth suggest, there is to the intelligent minister an unquestionableness; and the question is not here, whether such a thing be truth or not; for we suppose that it is obvious. [7]

The most interesting things to me about these exemplifications is that they seem to be coordinated with qualities and traits of the sort you have exemplified, and they are indeed religious contexts.

All of the later usages on the google Books Library simply seem to appear in dictionaries, which suggests to me that it fell into disuse but remained worthy of note for some reason, and most especially so because it still appears in Merriam-Webster's dictionary3 which probably would have cut it out by now if it was not.

References and Citations

1 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913, s.v. -ation:

A suffix forming nouns of action, and often equivalent to the verbal substantive in -ing. It sometimes has the further meanings of state, and that which results from the action. Many of these nouns have verbs in -ate; as, alliterate -ation, narrate -ation ; many are derived through the French; as, alteration, visitation ; and many are formed on verbs ending in the Greek formative -ize Fr. -ise); as, civilization, demoralization .

2 The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. s.v. edifyingness
3 Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, s.v. edifyingness
4 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) -ing:

A suffix used to form nouns from verbs, and signifying the act of; the result of the act; as, riding, dying, feeling . It has also a secondary collective force; as, shipping, clothing .

5 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) s.v. -ness:

A suffix used to form abstract nouns expressive of quality or state; as, goodness, greatness.

6 Some Observations upon the Answer to an Enquiry Into the Grounds & Occasions of the Contemt of the Clergy; by John Eachard (1672) pg. 140
7A Learned and Complete Commentary upon the Book of the Revelation by James Durham (1788) pg. 489

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    Thank you for the answer. Edifyingness works well for me, although my word processor does not recognize it. Nonetheless, this is the quality I was looking for and I hope it becomes recognized as a word used frequently. Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 3:37
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    The M-W link states that “you are looking for one [i.e., a word] that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.” That dictionary, like the OED, is a historical dictionary and lists definitions according to their historical usage. So there is no actual reason other than that for its inclusion in the MWUD. But its existence “only in the MWUD” gives a person pause for using it today. I wouldn’t and I’ve downvotes this answer. Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 4:52
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    @user1284969632635 That does mean it is there though. They have a different message to the effect of it is not in the dictionary if there is no entry. Also, that is strange, because what I see is more along these lines. and I lack a subscription to the unabridged dictionary. Also, aside from the fact that I've mentioned that it's rare and possibly archaic, I personally do not think the construction is so obscure as to merit disuse because it uses productive means to achieve its meaning which I've described.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 5:02
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    Anyway, -1 for suggesting an almost nonexistent word (it is not in the OED) for use in a 21st century sentence. Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 5:12

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