The word ‘duty’ means what is due, i.e., what one is bound to do, or under an obligation to do. In other words, a duty means what one ought to perform as a moral being.

The term ‘duty’ is sometimes used in a narrower sense to mean simply what is legally binding or obligatory upon an individual, and an individual is said to do more than his duty if he does more than what he is legally bound to do. In Ethics, however, the word ‘duty’ is taken in a wider and higher sense to signify every right act which one ought to perform, whether determinate or indeterminate, whether legally obligatory or not. Hence, from strictly moral or ethical point of view, an individual can never be said to do more than his duty.

Duty comes to an individual with a claim; it is a thing laid upon an individual to do whether he likes it or not. A duty may thus be defined as the obligation of an individual to satisfy a claim made upon him by the community, or some other individual member or members of that community, in the name of common good.


The English word ‘virtue’ is derived from Latin Vir, a man or hero. It corresponds to Latin Virtus and Sanskrit Virya, meaning manliness, bravery, power, energy or excellence. Though the word virtue was used for excellence of any kind, generally the excellence referred to is an excellence belonging to man (man includes woman as well), so that the virtues may be described as the forms of human excellence. In ethics, ‘virtue’ is used with two different meanings –

(a) A virtue is a quality of character, a general disposition or inclination of the self, to adapt its action to moral law. Virtue refers to the inner character and its excellence.

(b) A virtue is also a habit of action corresponding to the quality of character or disposition.