Printable Version
Pronunciation: mo-rayz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, plural

Meaning: 1. Customs, manners, traditional ways of doing things. 2. Moral attitudes or values.

Notes: Today's word has no singular; it is what linguists call a pluralis tantum "always plural" noun. So, there simply is no more, pronounced [mo-ray]. The plural marker -s on this word prevents any lexical expansion of this word, but a distant cousin moral has a negative form, immoral. Both the positive and negative adjectives have nouns, morality, immorality.

In Play: The first sense of mores refers to attitudes currently in a state of change: "Millennials are inventing a new set of mores as they totter through the 21st century." The second sense of this word is used to refer to shared moral values: "Puritanical mores in the US led to Prohibition."

Word History: Today's Good Word was coined by Cicero (De Fato, II.i) to translate Greek ethikos "the study or science of morals". It is the plural of Latin mos "one's disposition", but the plural was used to mean "mores, customs, manners". The adjective derived from mos, mores was moralis, which English, via French, borrowed as moral. The Latin word has its origin in PIE me-/mo- "mood, attitude", which emerged in Modern English as mood. In Modern German it is gemütlich "comfortable, cozy", from Old High German muot "mind, spirit". (It would be against the mores of this website not to thank Rob Towart, a loyal friend of this series, for his recommendation of today's comfortable Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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