\ˈē-ˌthäs \

Definition of ethos 

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

After the red carpet wrapped, the actress took to Instagram to share Hiraeth’s ethos and values. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "How Young Hollywood Is Changing Red-Carpet Fashion," 27 Apr. 2018 The ethos seems to be, let conceptual imagination and meticulous preparation rule, and a memorable dining experience is bound to follow. Laura Collado, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Constructing Albert,’ a Chef’s Ambition, Meticulously Plated," 5 July 2018 Dissidents around the world took to it in order to bypass censorship, as did some jihadist groups—which the company, with its free speech ethos and light touch of moderation, tolerated, at least for a time. Jacob Silverman, Longreads, "Private Telegram, Public Strife," 3 July 2018 The group continues to draw from that ethos, carving out a safe space in an industry that could use its own #MeToo-style reckoning that Hollywood, home to Miller’s primary profession, is experiencing. Lisa Butterworth, Billboard, "Sons of an Illustrious Father on Making Their 'Weirdest, Least Genre-Normative Album Yet'," 18 June 2018 Lee Raymond, Exxon’s boss from 1993 to 2005, personified the swagger at the heart of the company’s ethos. Bradley Olson, WSJ, "Exxon, Once a ‘Perfect Machine,’ Is Running Dry," 13 July 2018 The Putin ethos gives Russia political drawing power that overcomes language barriers, national borders and criticism in the mainstream news media in the West. Washington Post, "How the Kremlin turned the Russian president into a global icon," 12 July 2018 There are many restaurants, like Yarri in Dunsborough and Wildflower in Perth, that are based on this ethos, but one chef who is largely associated with this practice is Paul Iskov. Christina Liao, Vogue, "Why You Should Be Going to Australia for Fresh Black Truffles," 12 July 2018 And, in a way, Lewerke's under-the-radar July fits snugly into the us-against-the-world ethos Dantonio infuses into his program. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Forget the rankings. MSU's Brian Lewerke could be Big Ten's best QB," 11 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ethos

Statistics for ethos

Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ethos

The first known use of ethos was in 1842

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ethos



English Language Learners Definition of ethos

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 clear from alleged fault or guilt

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!