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

  • n. The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement: "They cultivated a subversive alternative ethos” ( Anthony Burgess).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. 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.
  • n. 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 The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Habitual character and disposition.
  • n. 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 WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (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").



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  • the internal executive ethos

    December 4, 2010

  • 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

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

    December 8, 2006