Stichter’s The Skillfulness of Virtue provides an original and contemporary discussion of virtue-acquisition from an interdisciplinary standpoint. By equating virtues to skills, he offers an empirically informed progression towards virtue expertise. With the focus on gaining proficiency, there is little room to analyse the status of the virtue-novice, who is equated to a novice in any other skill: an agent consciously following simple rules, gaining experience in order to respond to normatively-laden situations with more automaticity in the following stages of skill-acquisition. This paper argues for a disanalogy between the virtue novice and novices in other skills, resulting from the understanding that follows from learning virtue words such as ‘kindness’ and ‘honesty’. Our brains are structured to find and subsequently use patterns to skilfully move around in our environment. These patterns can be represented in what Stichter calls ‘schemas’ or mental models of categorisations. Virtue words refer to patterns that would be difficult to categorise without linguistic labels, as instances of these categories are highly divergent. Virtue words are thus learned through examples of virtuous behaviour. Moreover, as virtue words are thick ethical concepts, they contain a normative load. I argue that due to these characteristics, novices who use virtue vocabulary are in a more advanced position than novices in other skills. So, a kindness novice who understands the word ‘kind’ has a better idea of how to act kindly than the chess novice has an idea of how to play chess by understanding the word ‘chess’.