I am a bit confused regarding the translations of the word 操 in my 漢字 book (Kanji et Kana of Hadamitzky, Durmous and Mochizuki), as they give : chastity, purity, innocence, constancy, fidelity and honour! So I wanted to know which ones were closer to the actual usage of this word, as most of these translations have already well-known equivalents.
If you need to be strict in meaning, let's use those well-known equivalents :-)
Honestly speaking, I find it hard to explain how it is actually used, because it's rarely used. Everyone has heard this word, typically sung in enka and Japanese folk songs (for example see なみだの操). But the concept of 操 is almost never used in today's education, discussions, essays, and so on.
If I understand correctly, 操 is basically an old-fashioned word which is close to 貞操 (chastity). It does not necessarily mean being a 処女 (virgin), and 操 can probably be used with a married woman. I tend to associate 操 with a stereotype of strong-minded, determined woman who is faithful to her husband or master.
When I was writing this, Joan of Arc came up to my mind...although she's not even a Japanese!