habit

noun
hab·​it | \ ˈha-bət How to pronounce habit (audio) \

Definition of habit

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior her habit of taking a morning walk
2a : an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary got up early from force of habit
b : addiction a drug habit
c : a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance the daily bowel habit
3a : a costume characteristic of a calling, rank, or function a nun's habit
b : a costume worn for horseback riding
4 archaic : clothing
5 : manner of conducting oneself : bearing
6 : bodily appearance or makeup a man of fleshy habit
7 : the prevailing disposition or character of a person's thoughts and feelings : mental makeup a philosophical habit
8 of an organism : characteristic mode of growth or occurrence a grass similar to Indian corn in habit
9 of a crystal : characteristic assemblage of forms at crystallization leading to a usual appearance : shape

habit

verb
habited; habiting; habits

Definition of habit (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: clothe, dress It is the nature of such pedantry to habit itself in a harsh and crabbed style.— Richard M. Weaver

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Choose the Right Synonym for habit

Noun

habit, practice, usage, custom, wont mean a way of acting fixed through repetition. habit implies a doing unconsciously and often compulsively. had a habit of tapping his fingers practice suggests an act or method followed with regularity and usually through choice. our practice is to honor all major credit cards usage suggests a customary action so generally followed that it has become a social norm. western-style dress is now common usage in international business custom applies to a practice or usage so steadily associated with an individual or group as to have almost the force of unwritten law. the custom of wearing black at funerals wont usually applies to a habitual manner, method, or practice of an individual or group. as was her wont, she slept until noon

The Origin and Etymology of Habit

The word habit most often refers to a usual way of behaving or a tendency that someone has settled into, as in "good eating habits."

In its oldest sense, however, habit meant "clothing" and had nothing to do with the things a person does in a regular and repeated way. Today, this meaning is preserved only in phrases like "nun's habit," "monk's habit," and "riding habit" (clothes worn for horseback riding).

Like so many words that appeared in English in the centuries following the Norman Conquest, habit came from French. Indeed, the modern French word for clothes is habits (pronounced \ah-bee\). In English, habit progressed from meaning “clothing” to “clothing for a particular profession or purpose” to “bearing, conduct, behavior." (The word’s evolution brings to mind the old adage “the clothes make the man," which asserts that the way we dress reflects our character.)

From “what one wears” to “how one conducts oneself,” habit continued to evolve, referring to appearance (“a man of fleshy habit”) and mental makeup (“a philosophical habit”) before, after several centuries in English, it came to mean repeated activity: “a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition.”

The specific development of habit to refer to drug addiction began in the 19th century, with reference to opium.

Interestingly, even though “clothing” is the oldest meaning of habit in English, it wasn’t the original meaning of the word's ultimate Latin root, habitus. In Latin, that word’s original meaning was “state of being” or “condition.”

Our most common use of habit today, “acquired mode of behavior,” didn’t exist in Latin—habitus went from meaning “condition” to “how one conducts oneself” to “clothing.” That it was adapted into English in precisely the reverse order is an accident of history; the order of meanings absorbed from one language to another rarely constitutes a logical development. As with all language, meaning is established by usage and force of habit.

Examples of habit in a Sentence

Noun It was his habit to take a nap after dinner every evening. It's important that parents teach their children good study habits. He fell into some bad habits after graduating from college. It's never easy to break a bad habit. He still gets up early every day from habit. She always closed the door softly out of habit. He hasn't been able to kick his cocaine habit. Verb his exclusive clothing store had habited the town's upper crust for as long as anyone could remember
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun According to Cash, the habit and desire to keep his new friends turned him onto dealing it for profits to stay afloat. Andrew Boryga, sun-sentinel.com, "Meth, parties and $100,000: How a decorated doctor ended up selling illegal drugs," 28 Mar. 2021 Even the players — Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert — talked in the preseason about shoving aside prospects of getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, as had been the team’s habit of late. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Gordon Monson: Utah Jazz fans are unflaggingly faithful. They deserve a title run. Does this team?," 26 Mar. 2021 Michigan has made one habit part of the Wolverines' daily routine: making sure players change their bed linens, coach Juwan Howard said. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Zoo field trips, Topgolf: How teams are breaking up monotony of men's NCAA Tournament 'bubble'," 26 Mar. 2021 Besides, a good magazine reading habit might help cons stay out of trouble. Dave Lieber, Dallas News, "Inmate magazine subscription scheme ripping off prisoners, first exposed by The Watchdog, is shut down," 25 Mar. 2021 Stay Strong addressed Lovato’s rehab stint at age 18 to treat an eating disorder and a habit of self-harm. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Demi Lovato and the Dangers of Confessional Entertainment," 24 Mar. 2021 Keep an eye on the dog to make sure a habit is formed. Jackalyn Beck, chicagotribune.com, "How to train your dog on an invisible fence," 23 Mar. 2021 Among other things, this included a race of malevolent fairies who had the regrettable habit of kidnapping mortals into Other Lands. James Walton, The New York Review of Books, "Infinite Quarantine," 23 Mar. 2021 Scarlet pimpernel has a prostrate and spreading habit and without blooms is often mistaken for chickweed. Arkansas Online, "Mystery plants from Salt Lake City, Utah this week," 22 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'habit.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of habit

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Verb

1594, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for habit

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin habitus condition, character, from habēre to have, hold — more at give

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Learn More about habit

Time Traveler for habit

Time Traveler

The first known use of habit was in the 13th century

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Statistics for habit

Last Updated

31 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Habit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for habit

habit

noun

English Language Learners Definition of habit

: a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way
: a strong need to use a drug, to smoke cigarettes, etc.
: a piece of clothing worn by members of a religious group

habit

noun
hab·​it | \ ˈha-bət How to pronounce habit (audio) \

Kids Definition of habit

1 : usual way of behaving We're studying the habits of wild birds.
2 : clothing worn for a special purpose a riding habit
3 : a way of acting or doing that has become fixed by being repeated often From long habit, Jemmy kept his eyes peeled for treasure.— Sid Fleischman, The Whipping Boy
4 : characteristic way of growing These are trees of spreading habit.

habit

noun
hab·​it | \ ˈhab-ət How to pronounce habit (audio) \

Medical Definition of habit

1 : bodily appearance or makeup especially as indicative of one's capacities and condition a man of fleshy habit
2 : a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior
3a : a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiological exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance the daily bowel habit
b : an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary locked the door through force of habit
c : addiction was forced to steal to support his drug habit
4 : characteristic mode of growth or occurrence

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Comments on habit

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