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  • Erika Clegg

Questions Answered: Where does the word ethos come from?

I started using the word ‘ethos’ regularly many years ago when introducing a new Values Set to my own business, with the goal of using those values to help create a positive culture.


The word ‘ethos’ represents what you get when you combine the values. It is heartfelt and purposeful, something I could draw upon fully as I took on the task.


The starting point for the word can be traced back to Ancient Greece, and the philosopher Aristotle. This was a golden age of oratory, and Aristotle set out the three necessary components of a speech to persuade: namely logos, ethos and pathos.


  1. Logos (‘the word’) - this is the clarity of the argument, its content and factual accuracy

  2. Ethos (‘character’) - someone’s right to make the argument (and therefore its weight) by dint of their own values and reputation

  3. Pathos (‘suffering/experience’) - a speaker’s ability to appeal to their audience’s emotions.


This has subsequently been called the Rhetoric Triangle, and its use allows writers and speakers to create impact.


Looking more broadly, it's a helpful structure for communications in any kind of project or programme in an organisation.


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