Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 1259–1279 | Cite as

The Roots of Virtue: A Cross-Cultural Lexical Analysis

  • Tim LomasEmail author
Research Paper


Although the notion of virtue is increasingly prominent in psychology, the way it has been studied and conceptualised has been relatively Western-centric, and does not fully account for variations in how it has been understood cross-culturally. As such, an enquiry was conducted into ideas relating to virtue found across the world’s cultures, focusing specifically on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with conceptual snowballing and crowd-sourced suggestions, over 200 relevant terms were located. An adapted grounded theory analysis identified five themes which together provide an insight into the “roots” of virtue (i.e., the main sources from which it appears to spring): virtue itself (the concept of it); considerateness (caring about it); wisdom (knowing what it consists of); agency (managing to be/do it); and skill (mastery of the preceding elements). The results help shed further light on the potential dynamics of this important phenomenon.


Virtue Wellbeing Cross-cultural Language Character strengths 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of East LondonLondonUK

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