AskDefine | Define morale

Dictionary Definition



1 a state of individual psychological well-being based upon a sense of confidence and usefulness and purpose
2 the spirit of a group that makes the members want the group to succeed [syn: esprit de corps, team spirit]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others.
    After the layoffs morale was at an all time low, they were so dispirited nothing was getting done.
    Morale is an important quality in soldiers. With good morale they'll charge into a hail of bullets; without it they won't even cross a street.






  1. moral

Extensive Definition

Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used for the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others. The second term applies particularly to military personnel and to members of sports teams, but is also applicable in business and in any other organizational context, particularly in times of stress or controversy.
According to Alexander H. Leighton, "morale is the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose".
Morale is unrelated to morality (the ability to distinguish right and wrong).

Military morale

In a military sense, there are two meanings to morale. Primarily it means the cohesion of a unit, task force, or other military group. An army with good supply lines, sound air cover and a clear objective possesses, as a whole, can be said to have "good morale" or "high morale." Historically, elite military units such as the Praetorian Guard, Napoleon's Imperial Guard, and many Special Forces or elite units like the United States Marine Corps, Israeli Golani Brigade, French Foreign Legion, United States Army Special Forces, SAS, Australian SASR and Spetnaz, have "high morale" due to both their elite training and pride in their unit. When a unit's morale is said to be "depleted", it means it is close to "crack and surrender", as was the case with Italian units in North Africa during World War II. It is well worth noting that generally speaking, most commanders do not look at the morale of specific individuals but rather the "fighting spirit" of squadrons, divisions, battalions, ships, Marine Safety Detachments, etc.

Factors affecting military morale

Despite the intangible nature of morale, improvements in material factors (such as remuneration, food and shelter) can improve the morale. However, history is filled with stories of the self-will and determination of a poorly supplied army maintaining morale to the very end, such as the Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War.

Military morale can benefit from

  • Adequate quantity, and quality of food, water, and shelter.
  • The quality of military leadership.
  • The quality of military training.
  • Having a volunteer military, as opposed to a force made up of potentially less motivated conscripts.
  • A belief in the values the military represents, and fights for.
  • A belief in, and loyalty towards the nation and culture the military fights on behalf of.
  • How often the army wins or loses a confrontation with the enemy.

National public morale in war

Morale in warfare is also related to the morale of a nation's population. A nation's population is likely to retain high wartime morale when:
  • The objectives of a war are clearly understood by the public.
  • The objectives of a war are valued by the public.
  • A public believes the war can be won.
  • A public believes the war is worth winning.
  • A public fears the consequences of losing the war.
The morale of a civilian population can also increase or decrease due to exposure to propaganda from their government or opposition forces, respectively. Psychological warfare is a major part of modern warfare. Nation states, politically motivated individuals, religious activists, and secular pressure groups employ psychological warfare to target the minds of citizens in nations and cultures they are opposed to.
Since at least the time of Carl von Clausewitz' On War, maintenance of morale has been considered one of the fundamental "Principles of War". Sir Basil Liddell Hart regarded morale even more fundamentally:
The aim of a nation in war is to subdue the enemy's will to resist,...
Sun Tzu, in his book The Art of War, also mentions morale of nations, as well as armies.

Morale in the workplace

Workplace events play a large part in changing employee morale, such as heavy layoffs, the cancellation of overtime, cancelling benefits programs, and the influence of unions. Other events can also influence workplace morale, such as sick building syndrome, low wages, and employees being mistreated.

Factors influencing morale within the workplace include:

  • Job security.
  • Staff feeling that their contribution is valued by their employer.
  • Realistic opportunities for merit-based promotion.
  • The work 'culture'.
  • Team composition.
  • Management style.
  • The perceived status of the work being done by the organization as a whole.
  • The perceived social or economic value of the work being done by the organization as a whole.


morale in Japanese: 士気
morale in Norwegian: Kampånd
morale in Finnish: Taistelutahto
morale in Swedish: Esprit de corps

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

angelicalness, assurance, attitude, bipartisanship, coaction, coadjuvancy, coadministration, coagency, cochairmanship, codirectorship, collaboration, collaborativeness, collectivism, collusion, commensalism, common effort, common enterprise, communalism, communism, communitarianism, community, complicity, concert, concord, concordance, concurrence, confidence, cooperation, cooperativeness, cue, dedication, disposition, drive, duet, duumvirate, ecumenicalism, ecumenicism, ecumenism, esprit, esprit de corps, ethicality, ethicalness, fellow feeling, fellowship, frame, frame of mind, godliness, goodness, harmony, heart, humor, joining of forces, joint effort, joint operation, mass action, mind, mood, moral rectitude, morality, morals, mutual assistance, mutualism, mutuality, note, octet, pooling, pooling of resources, probity, pulling together, quartet, quintet, reciprocity, rectitude, right conduct, righteousness, saintlikeness, saintliness, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-possession, septet, sextet, solidarity, spirit, spirits, state of mind, symbiosis, synergism, synergy, team spirit, teamwork, temper, tone, trio, triumvirate, troika, united action, unity, vein, vigor, virtue, virtuousness
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