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

Essential Meaning of ethos

formal : the guiding beliefs of a person, group, or organization The company made environmental awareness part of its business ethos. They are working to keep a democratic ethos alive in the community. an ethos of arrogance

Full 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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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 Popshelf is totally in keeping with the ethos of Dollar General. Chris Walton, Forbes, 27 Dec. 2021 Fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who infused the world of high fashion with casual ethos of streetwear, is dead at 41. Los Angeles Times, 4 Dec. 2021 And in keeping with the holistic ethos of the day, Ayan noted that sustainability needs to be considered from several angles, for example, how a port functions as usable space for locals when there aren’t any cruise ships around. Betsy Blumenthal, Condé Nast Traveler, 17 Nov. 2021 Butchers with a similar sustainability ethos wondered how a company could scale at that rate when most shops struggle to turn a profit. Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Nov. 2021 Vitelli is an artisanal creative community headed by Mauro Simionato, a creative director/cultural agitator with a hippie ethos. Tiziana Cardini, Vogue, 27 Sep. 2021 Community spirit may not always seem compatible with the American ethos of individualism. Allie Volpe, The Atlantic, 30 Aug. 2021 The stonewalling is in keeping with a zealously enforced ethos of secrecy., 14 Aug. 2021 It’s kind of a magical tax, one that aligns perfectly with the American ethos of rugged individualism. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 18 June 2021

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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Last Updated

10 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ethos.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on ethos

Nglish: Translation of ethos for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ethos for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about ethos


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