from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Habitual character and disposition.
  • noun Specifically In the Gr. fine arts, etc., the inherent quality of a work which produces, or is fitted to produce, a high moral impression, noble, dignified, and universal, as opposed to a work characterized by pathos, or the particular, accidental, passionate, realistic quality.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The character, sentiment, or disposition of a community or people, considered as a natural endowment; the spirit which actuates manners and customs; also, the characteristic tone or genius of an institution or social organization.
  • noun (Æsthetics) The traits in a work of art which express the ideal or typic character -- character as influenced by the ethos (sense 1) of a people -- rather than realistic or emotional situations or individual character in a narrow sense; -- opposed to pathos.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The character or fundamental values of a person, people, culture, or movement.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun (anthropology) the distinctive spirit of a culture or an era


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Greek ēthos, character; see s(w)e- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek ἦθος (ēthos, "custom, habit").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word ethos.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 'I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.'

    December 8, 2006

  • I am always confused over whether I should be pronouncing this /ˈeθɒs/ (as in ethics) or /ˈiːθɒs/ (as in ether). Whenever I look it up I am confused by the fact that there are two related Greek words εθος ethos and ηθος êthos, and that though ethics comes from the latter it is invariably pronounced with short E.

    So εθος ethos meant "custom, habit" but did not really give any English derivatives. The related word ηθος êthos is more complex, giving all of English ethos, ethics, ethology. In the singular its meanings extend to "character, nature", basically what ethos is and what ethics and in part ethology study; in the plural (ηθη êthê) it means "haunts, abodes" of animals and "manners, customs" of people.

    Unrelated are short-E ethno- "people" and long-E (in fact AE, Greek αι-) ether, aether "airlike substance/realm".

    June 4, 2009

  • the internal executive ethos

    December 4, 2010