\ ˈē-ˌthäs How to pronounce ethos (audio) \

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

Sister City and Ace Hotel share this ethos, and it’s threaded in all of our projects. Vanessa Lawrence, ELLE Decor, "Atelier Ace's New New York City Hotel Wants to Help You Clear Your Head," 14 May 2019 This ethos would seem to align with the concerns of Trump’s domestic political base. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Why American Businesses Should Be 'Terrified' After President Trump's Comments on Trade," 9 June 2018 This combative ethos has stood firm amid an assortment of insults and missteps. New York Times, "The Trump White House Will Not Apologize About John McCain (or Much Else, Really)," 14 May 2018 This ethos of balancing has extended beyond constitutional schemes, with the later advent of robust, objectively minded newspapers and labor unions, each theoretically serving as a countervailing center of power. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "Silicon Valley Falls to Earth," 9 Apr. 2018 The name alludes to this ethos: The Circadian rhythm is a biological process that takes about 24 hours, repeating every day. Sarah Spellings, The Cut, "3 Years of Everyday Life in 7 Countries, Captured by a Wandering Photographer," 28 Mar. 2018 But the moves of the workout itself belie this prim ethos. Danielle Friedman, CNN, "The sexual origins of the popular barre workout," 13 Mar. 2018 The designers’ storytelling ethos extends to their marketing plan. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "This English-Bulgarian Brand Is Making Fantastical Traditional Dress," 17 May 2019 But the divide over APs also points to an emerging difference in ethos: While public schools nationwide continue to embrace competition, private schools seem increasingly uncomfortable with it. Caitlin Macy, WSJ, "AP Tests Are Still a Great American Equalizer," 22 Feb. 2019

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

7 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for ethos

The first known use of ethos was in 1842

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English Language Learners Definition of ethos

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

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incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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