amoral vs. immoral

What is the difference between amoral and immoral?

Amoral and immoral are both formed by attaching prefixes to the adjective moral. The prefixes “a-” and “in-” (which changes to “im-” in front of words beginning with M) have very similar but distinct meanings in this usage: “a-” in this case means “without or not possessing,” while “im-” means “not or non-.”
If someone or something is amoral, it means they do not have a sense of morality whatsoever or are impartial to it, as in:
  • “An insect is amoral; it only does what its instincts tell it to do.”
  • “Lawyers must in many ways be amoral, defending their client in a court of law regardless of personal beliefs or opinions.”
  • “A child is amoral before a certain age, simply unable to grasp the concept of right versus wrong.”
An immoral person or thing, though, does that which goes against or subverts accepted or conventional moral principles. For example:
  • “The company’s decision to rescind employees’ health benefits may not be illegal, but it is certainly immoral in my opinion.”
  • “The film was considered immoral in its home country due to some of its graphic depictions.”
  • “Your immoral habits have brought shame onto this family.”
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