What are the definitions of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos? What is an easy way to remember them?

1 Answer

They are methods of persuasion - by appealing to the character of the speaker (Ethos), logic (Logos), and emotion (Pathos).


Before we dive in, let's first talk about where these concepts come from. The answer is Aristotle (384-322 BCE), who wrote extensively on the subject of rhetoric (the art of persuasive speaking and writing).

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are three different ways to be persuasive.

  • Ethos (from the Greek for "character") serves to highlight the persuader's credibility or ethical state. A couple of examples:

As a doctor, I can tell you that your diet is of concern and so you should eat better.

As a dad to two children, I believe you should play sports with your kids.


  • Pathos (from the Greek for "suffering" and "experience") is an appeal to someone's emotions. A couple of examples:

How can you allow this kind of behaviour to occur in a town full of God fearing people?

After years of working for the company, how can they simply just let me go?


  • Logos (from the Greek for "I say") is an appeal to logic and reason. A couple of examples:

According to a recent study, being a parent is linked to an increase in hair loss.

I know it sounds incredible but the math checks out.


And, of course, we can mix and match them:

Bob, as your doctor, I have to advise you to give up smoking (Ethos). Your lungs are literally dying - you can see it here on this scan (Logos). You are killing yourself and you'll leave behind your wife and family who are absolutely dependent on you (Pathos).

In terms of how to remember these, perhaps try this:

Ethos is close to "ethics" - the appeal is to the ethical and responsible behaviour of the speaker.

Logos is close to "logic" - the appeal to logic and reason.

Pathos is close to "pathetic" - which is something we say when feeling disgust.

For more on Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, try the links below: