\ ˈē-ˌthäs \

Definition of ethos 

: the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution also : ethic sense 2c

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Did You Know?

Ethos means "custom" or "character" in Greek. As originally used by Aristotle, it referred to a man's character or personality, especially in its balance between passion and caution. Today ethos is used to refer to the practices or values that distinguish one person, organization, or society from others. So we often hear of the ethos of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency on the American frontier in the 19th century; and a critic might complain about, for example, the ethos of violence in the inner cities or the ethos of permissiveness in the suburbs.

Examples of ethos in a Sentence

The company made environmental awareness part of its business ethos. They are working to keep a democratic ethos alive in the community.

Recent Examples on the Web

But Cooley’s professed ethos of inclusivity may be cover for a darker agenda. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Went to a Uniquely Awful Law School," 5 May 2018 But today, that ethos is rampant in the podcasting world, from Moth-like storytelling shows like Risk! to programming like Beautiful Anonymous, which leverages anonymity to give a whole new meaning to vulnerability. Miranda Katz, WIRED, "The Moth Podcast Looks Back at a Decade of Stories," 17 Apr. 2018 Actually, that's not an ethos as much as an observational fact of life, true in almost every occupation. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Sprinting worked for the Patriots. Why not for Matt Patricia's Lions?," 11 June 2018 That ethos persisted amid the mutual cynicism of relations between the Communist Party and the Soviet Union’s citizens. The Economist, "Inside Vladimir Putin’s “mafia state”," 17 May 2018 The line more than any single unit embodies the Badgers’ ethos, that chip-on-our-shoulder mentality that lurks one inch below the surface and has propelled a series of low-star recruits into five New Year’s Six bowls in the past eight seasons. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Wisconsin builds foundation of success with unique approach on offensive line," 10 Apr. 2018 The overall effect is a film that—flaws and all—marries acid satire and a trippy futurescape where oppression is the norm to an ethos of genuine hope. Vann R. Newkirk Ii, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Is a Dystopian Send-Up of Dystopias," 13 July 2018 Inspiring the next generation of women leaders is central to the event’s ethos. Stephanie Walden, USA TODAY, "The KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit aims to empower the next generation of women leaders," 19 June 2018 After finishing runners-up in both 1974 and '78, the 'Total Football' side that had been etched into the ethos of Dutch football for many years following, was unceremoniously ditched in 2010 in the hope of finally ending their hoodoo., "World Cup Countdown: 4 Days to Go - When Oranje Ditched Total Football in 2010 to Near-Perfection," 10 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ethos.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ethos

1842, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ethos

New Latin, from Greek ēthos custom, character — more at sib

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Statistics for ethos

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ethos

The first known use of ethos was in 1842

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English Language Learners Definition of ethos

: the guiding beliefs of a person, group, or organization

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Comments on ethos

What made you want to look up ethos? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

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