late 14c., moralite, "moral qualities, virtuous conduct or thought," from Old French moralite (Modern French moralité) "moral (of a story); moral instruction; morals, moral character" (13c.) and directly from Late Latin moralitatem (nominative moralitas) "manner, character," from Latin moralis "of manners or morals; moral" (see moral (adj.)). Meaning "doctrine or system of ethical duties" is from mid-15c. Meaning "goodness, characteristic of being moral, virtuousness" is attested from 1590s.
Where there is no free agency, there can be no morality. Where there is no temptation, there can be little claim to virtue. Where the routine is rigorously proscribed by law, the law, and not the man, must have the credit of the conduct. [William H. Prescott, "History of the Conquest of Peru," 1847]
1752, "moral principles or practice," from French morale "morality, good conduct," from fem. of Old French moral "moral" (see moral (adj.)). Meaning "mental condition as regards confidence, courage, hope, etc." (especially as regards soldiers, sailors, or any body of persons engaged in a hazardous enterprise) is recorded by 1831, from confusion with French moral (Modern French distinguishes le moral "temperament" and la morale "morality").
"cunning, deceitful, habitually duplicitous, unscrupulous, destitute of political morality," 1570s, from Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), Florentine statesman and author of "Il Principe," a work advising rulers to place advantage above morality. A word of abuse in English well before his works were translated ("The Discourses" in 1636, "The Prince" in 1640), in part because his books were Indexed by the Church, in part because of French attacks on him (such as Gentillet's, translated into English 1602). Related: Machiavellianism.
"moral exposition of a story, the doctrine inculcated by a fable or fiction, the practical lesson which anything is designed to teach," c. 1500, from moral (adj.) and from French moral and Medieval Latin moralia. In this sense, morality was used from late 14c. The earlier noun use of moral was "a commandment pertaining to morals."