\ 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

All Khosrowshahi had to do was look apologetic when asked about Uber’s past scandals, and then quickly pivot to the company’s new ethos, which was safety and corporate responsibility. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: Uber," 29 Dec. 2018 This ethos—which is palpable throughout his work as a designer, DJ, art director, and so forth—is part of the reason why he's amassed an incredibly vocal, passionate, and ever-present fan base. Ana Colon, Glamour, "Here's Why Virgil Abloh's New Job at Louis Vuitton Matters," 26 Mar. 2018 All Khosrowshahi had to do was look apologetic then pivot to the company’s new ethos. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: Uber," 29 Dec. 2018 Small children, who tend to be, as Susie observes, sticky, don’t fit with the show’s glamorous, beautiful-single-woman-out-in-the-world ethos. Marjorie Ingall, Town & Country, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," 4 Dec. 2018 No surprise, then, that the majority of the couch caucus comes from the Republican party, especially Tea Party members who see this living arrangement as a symbol of their fiscal restraint and anti-Washington ethos. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a point about housing for Congress," 21 Nov. 2018 But the bigotry expressed in his words falls right in line with Victoria's Secret's brand ethos: their exclusionary business practices have alienated consumers for decades. Gianluca Russo, Teen Vogue, "ThirdLove Responds to Victoria's Secret Exec Ed Razek's Comments About Their Brand," 17 Nov. 2018 The audience is fired up and the Wing’s core ethos—a safe space for women—feels particularly palpable. Jessica Wakeman, Glamour, "How The Wing Became a Secret Weapon For Midterm Candidates," 30 Oct. 2018 Her casting choices reflect this ethos: while a traditional period film would seek to cast based on lookalikes or impersonations, Coppola isn’t interested in that., "Why Marie Antoinette Is Really Mean Girls, Versailles Edition," 10 July 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

18 Jan 2019

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

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a complex dispute or argument

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