Arete ( /ˈærətiː/; Ancient Greek: ἀρετή), in its basic sense, means excellence of any kind. In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.
Sometimes translated as "virtue", the word actually means something closer to "being the best you can be", or "reaching your highest human potential".
The term from Homeric times onwards is not gender specific. Homer applies the term of both the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as major female figures, such as Penelope, the wife of the Greek hero, Odysseus. In the Homeric poems, Areté is frequently associated with bravery, but more often, with effectiveness. The man or woman of Areté is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness, to achieve real results. In the Homeric world, then, Areté involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans. The concept implies a human-centered universe in which human actions are of paramount importance; the world is a place of conflict and difficulty, and human value and meaning is measured against individual effectiveness in the world.
Areté is explicitly linked with human knowledge, where the expressions "virtue is knowledge" and "Areté is knowledge" are used interchangeably. The highest human potential is knowledge and all other human abilities are derived from this central capacity. If Areté is knowledge and study, the highest human knowledge is knowledge about knowledge itself; in this light, the theoretical study of human knowledge, which Aristotle called "contemplation," is the highest human ability and happiness."