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").
1793, "to corrupt or undermine the morals of," from French démoraliser, from de- "remove" (see de-) + morale (see morale). Said to be a coinage of the French Revolution. Sense of "lower the morale of, deprive of courage and confidence" (originally especially in reference to armed forces) is attested by 1842; in colloquial use, "to throw into confusion generally." Also demoralise. Related: Demoralized; demoralizing; demoralization.
1816, false spelling of local in a sense "a place, a locality, a scene," especially with reference to circumstances connected with it, from this sense in French local, noun use of local (adj.), from Latin locus "a place" (see locus). The English spelling with -e probably is based on morale and intended to indicate stress.
The word's right to exist depends upon the question whether the two indispensable words locality & scene give all the shades of meaning required, or whether something intermediate is useful. [Fowler]
mid-14c., "associated with or characterized by right behavior," also "associated with or concerning conduct or moral principles" (good or bad), from Old French moral (14c.) and directly from Latin moralis "proper behavior of a person in society," literally "pertaining to manners," coined by Cicero ("De Fato," II.i) to translate Greek ethikos (see ethics) from Latin mos (genitive moris) "one's disposition," in plural, "mores, customs, manners, morals," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps sharing a PIE root with English mood (n.1).
From late 14c. as "of or pertaining to rules of right conduct" (opposed to non-moral, amoral) and "morally good, in accordance with rules of right conduct" (opposed to immoral). Of persons, "habitually conforming to moral rules," 1630s. From 1680s with reference to rights, duties, etc., "founded on morality" (opposed to legal).
Applied to indirect effect in moral support (1823), moral victory (1888), where the notion is "pertaining to or affecting the character or conduct" (as distinguished from the intellectual or physical nature), a sense attested from 1590s; in this sense, compare morale. Related: Morally.
1680s, "of or pertaining to the mind as a subject of study;" see psychology + -ical. In early 20c. the sense gradually shifted toward "affecting or pertaining to a person's mental or emotional state." Related: Psychologically. Psychological warfare "use of propaganda, etc., to undermine an enemy's morale or resolve" is recorded from 1940. Psychological moment was in vogue from 1871, from French moment psychologique "moment of immediate expectation of something about to happen."
The original German phrase, misinterpreted by the French & imported together with its false sense into English, meant the psychic factor, the mental effect, the influence exerted by a state of mind, & not a point of time at all, das Moment in German corresponding to our momentum, not our moment. [Fowler]