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  1. the body of moral principles or values governing or distinctive of a particular culture or group: the Christian ethic; the tribal ethic of the Zuni.
  2. a complex of moral precepts held or rules of conduct followed by an individual: a personal ethic.
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Origin of ethic

1350–1400; Middle English ethic, etic < Latin ēthicus < Greek ēthikós, equivalent to êth(os) ethos + -ikos -ic
Related formsnon·eth·ic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for ethic


  1. a moral principle or set of moral values held by an individual or groupthe Puritan ethic
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  1. another word for ethical
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See also ethics

Word Origin

C15: from Latin ēthicus, from Greek éthikos, from ēthos custom; see ethos
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ethic


late 14c., ethik "study of morals," from Old French etique (13c.), from Late Latin ethica, from Greek ethike philosophia "moral philosophy," fem. of ethikos "ethical," from ethos "moral character," related to ethos "custom" (see ethos). Meaning "a person's moral principles" is attested from 1650s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper