- her habit of taking a morning walk
- got up early from force of habit
- a drug habit
- the daily bowel habit
- a nun's habit
- a man of fleshy habit
- a philosophical habit
- a grass similar to Indian corn in habit
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.
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.
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.
his exclusive clothing store had habited the town's upper crust for as long as anyone could remember
: 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
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