Plural of Ethos

The Quick Answer

"Ethe" is the plural of "ethos."

The Plural of Ethos

The best plural of "ethos" is "ethe."
  • The diverse ethe of the global communities showcased a rich tapestry of cultural values at the international summit. correct tick
  • When studying ancient civilizations, historians often compare the ethe of different societies to understand their approaches to law and morality. correct tick
  • The new leadership program blends the best elements from the various corporate ethe to create a comprehensive guide for ethical business practices. correct tick
Potentially, "ethea" is also an acceptable plural, but "ethoi" and "ethoses" are both incorrect (explained below).

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The Standard Rules for Forming the Plurals

The table below shows the standard rules for forming the plurals of nouns in English.
Type Example of Type Forming the Plural Plural
Most Nouns cat
scythe
add s cats
scythes
Noun Ending s, sh, ch, x or z bus
dress
add es buses
dresses
Nouns ending [consonant] o mango
zero
tomato
add either s or es
(There are no rules for this - you have to know.)
mangoes or mangos
zeros
tomatoes
Nouns ending [vowel] o patio
ratio
add s patios
ratios
Nouns ending [consonant] y story
penny
change the y to an i and add es stories
pennies
Nouns ending [vowel] y storey (small British flag)
donkey
add s storeys
donkeys
Mass nouns air
rice
some nouns do not have a plural form
air
rice
Nouns ending f or fe dwarf
knife
ves and/or s
(There are no rules - you have to know.)
dwarfs
knives
Exceptions goose
louse
some nouns undergo a vowel or letters change geese
lice
More exceptions salmon
sheep
some nouns do not change at all salmon
sheep
Foreign rulings ethos
medium
some nouns adopt foreign rulings ethe
media
Read more about English spelling rules.

Why Is There Confusion over the Plural of Ethos?

"Ethos" derives from Greek and so does its plural "ethe." In English, some words adopt their foreign plurals (e.g., phenomenon becomes "phenomena"), and some don't (e.g., octopus becomes "octopuses"). "Ethos" is one that adopts its foreign plural, but this is where the problems start.

If you follow the standard rules in Greek for pluralizing nouns ending "-os," you would end up with the ending "-oi." This is why "ethoi" is often cited as the correct plural. However, in Greek, "ethos" is not a masculine noun – as could reasonably be expected – and its Greek plurals are either:
  • "ethe" (the commonly used, contracted form), or
  • "ethea" (the less commonly used, uncontracted form)
Of course, there is a fair chance that your readers will not know what "ethe" or "ethea" means. Therefore, although not supported etymologically, there is a good argument for using "ethoses." (If "ethos" and its plural were more common, popular usage would likely have already turned the plural into "ethoses.")
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.