[ ee-thos, ee-thohs, eth-os, -ohs ]
/ ˈi θɒs, ˈi θoʊs, ˈɛθ ɒs, -oʊs /
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See synonyms for: ethos / ethoses on Thesaurus.com

Sociology. the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period: In the Greek ethos the individual was highly valued.
the character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.
the moral element in dramatic literature that determines a character's action rather than their thought or emotion.


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Origin of ethos

First recorded in 1850–55; from Latin ēthos “character, portrayal of character,” from Greek êthos “custom, habit, disposition character”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does ethos mean?

The ethos of a culture or society is its collective spirit or character—the fundamental or underlying beliefs and attitudes that influence its customs and practices.

Things sometimes said to have an ethos include countries (the American ethos of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), cultures and subcultures (the punk ethos), and eras in time (the counterculture ethos of the ’60s).

The word can also refer collectively to such beliefs and attitudes in a person.

The term ethos is also used as the name of a particular method of persuasion in which a person relies on their credibility or character when making an appeal or an argument. In this context, it is often discussed alongside logos (an appeal to logic) and pathos (an appeal to emotion).

Example: Our company ethos is based on creating a space where people of all backgrounds feel welcome and valued in the workplace.

Where does ethos come from?

The first records of the word ethos to mean the collective character of a society or culture come from the mid-1800s. It comes from a Greek word meaning “custom,” “habit,” or “character.” The word ethic, referring to a body of principles and values, is based on the same root.

Something’s ethos is its character or general attitude—what it’s all about. A country’s national ethos involves its core values and is the driving force behind its culture. The ethos behind what’s called the “American Dream” is the notion that any American who works hard can achieve success.

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How is ethos used in real life?

Ethos is especially used in the context of societies, countries, and cultures.



Try using ethos!

Is ethos used correctly in the following sentence?

This way of doing business goes against my entire ethos.

How to use ethos in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ethos

/ (ˈiːθɒs) /

the distinctive character, spirit, and attitudes of a people, culture, era, etcthe revolutionary ethos

Word Origin for ethos

C19: from Late Latin: habit, from Greek
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