I'm looking for a good word to express the concept of "the right thing being done" but avoiding the connotations of the two most obvious words:

  • Justice - has too much of a connotation of being legalistic or enforced by the police.
  • Morality - has too much of a connotation of "traditional values" and puritanism.

Is there a better word?

closed as general reference by J.R., Matt E. Эллен, Andrew Leach, Mark Beadles, Robusto Jul 31 '12 at 16:06

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    Didn't fancy any synonyms of 'right'? Fitting, fair, ethical, correct, virtuous, upright... – Matthew Jul 31 '12 at 8:07
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    Please could you add to your question an example sentence where you would use the word. – Matt E. Эллен Jul 31 '12 at 9:49
  • I don't think 'morality' has that connotation, as I think about the word in a philosophical sense rather than a religious sense; however, I suppose it depends on your audience. What context are you using the word in? Likewise with 'justice'. I don't think the phrase "He acted justly" sounds too stuffy or legalistic. – Zairja Jul 31 '12 at 12:59

Technically at least, the word in line with justice and morality that matches 'right' would be rectitude.

However, it depends on where you would like to use the word. That is, the exact import in the context.


Would decency work?

Decency means: a : the quality or state of being decent : propriety b : conformity to standards of taste, propriety, or quality

And decent is defined as: marked by moral integrity, kindness, and goodwill <hard-working and decent folks> <it's very decent of them to help>; conforming to standards of propriety, good taste, or morality <decent behavior>

One of Merriam-Webster's example sentences for decency is:

Decency, not fear of punishment, caused them to do the right thing.


I'd recommend "conscience" :

Here's the definition from Dictionary.com:

The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action.

Ex. to follow the dictates of conscience

Merriam-Webster also defines conscience as:

a : the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good

b : a faculty, power, or principle enjoining good acts

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