Ethnic vs ethic

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Ethnic and ethic are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of ethnic and ethic, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Ethnic is an adjective that describes something relating to a subgroup of people who have a common cultural tradition due to a shared geographical location, religion or race. Often, the word ethnic is used in Western culture to mean traditions of non-Western culture. Depending on the context of the situation, this use of the word ethnic may or may not be offensive. Ethnic is derived from the Greek word ethnikos which means of a nation or national. Related words are ethnically, ethnicity.

An ethic is a moral principle that serves as a rule for conduct. An ethic is practical, conceived as a shared principle promoting fairness in social and business interactions. Often, the plural form is used, ethics, as one is usually speaking of a system of moral principles rather than a single principle. The word ethic is derived from the Greek word ethos, meaning custom. Related words are ethical, ethically.


Gerard A. Postiglione and Chura Thapa say the city’s ethnic minority children would master Mandarin phonetics and simplified Chinese characters more quickly than Cantonese in traditional characters, giving them a shot at admission to prestigious mainland universities and greater job opportunities. (The South China Morning Post)

There is still no timeframe for the release of long-withheld ethnic population data from the 2014 census, Minister of Labor, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe told lawmakers on Wednesday. (The Irrawaddy News Magazine)

After initially approving a sweeping set of new ethics regulations with a vote of 3-2 earlier this month, the Palm Springs City Council reworked parts of the ordinance at their meeting on Wednesday to try to reach a unanimous vote. (The Desert Sun)