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A 19th century children's book informs its readers that the Dutch are a very industrious race, and that Chinese children are very obedient to their parents (implicitly, relative to the British) .

Mores (English pronunciation: /ˈmɔreɪz, -iz, ˈmoʊr-/, singular mos) is the Latin term for societal norms, customs, virtues or values. Mores derive from the established practices of a society rather than its written laws. They consist of shared understandings about the kinds of behavior likely to evoke approval, disapproval, toleration or sanction, within particular contexts.

The English word morality comes from the same root, as does the noun moral. However, mores does not, as is commonly supposed, necessarily carry connotations of morality. Rather, morality can be seen as a subset of mores, held to be of central importance in view of their content, and often formalized in some kind of moral code.

The Greek term equivalent to Latin mores is ethos (εθος, ηθος). As with the relation of mores to morality, ethos is the basis of the term ethics, but does not itself carry connotations of morality as much as of customary proper behavior peculiar to a given society.

The Germanic equivalent of the term is sidu-: Gothic sidus, Old Norse siðr (whence the Icelandic siður), Old English sidu, seodu, siodu, Old High German situ, sito. The word is extinct in Modern English but survives in modern Scandinavian and Continental Germanic languages. The Germanic word is cognate with Greek ethos etymologically, continuing a PIE *sedhos.

The meaning of all these terms extend to all customs of proper behaviour in a given society, both religious and profane, from more trivial conventional aspects of costume, etiquette or politeness, "folkways" enforced by gentle social pressure, but going beyond mere "folkways" or conventions in including moral codes and notions of justice down to strict taboos, behaviour that is unthinkable within the society in question, universally including incest and murder but also the commitment of outrages specific to the individual society such as blasphemy. Such religious or sacral customs may be unpredictable and vary completely from one culture to another: while uttering the name of God may be a taboo in one culture, uttering it as often as possible may be considered pious in the extreme in another.

While cultural universals are by definition part of the mores of every society (hence also called "empty universals"), the customary norms specific to a given society are a defining aspect of the cultural identity of a ethnicity or a nation. Coping with the differences between two sets of cultural conventions is a question of intercultural competence. Differences in the mores of various nations are at the root of ethnic stereotype, or in the case of reflection upon one's own mores, autostereotypes.

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