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 His habit of flapping his back elbow as a way to keep it high when hitting was imitated by many a Little Leaguer in Cincinnati and beyond. CBS News, "Joe Morgan, Hall of Famer and driving force of Big Red Machine, dies at 77," 12 Oct. 2020 The needle loss is often most conspicuous on pines because of their open branching habit, and because pine needles grow — and fall — in bundles of two or more. Beth Botts, chicagotribune.com, "Evergreens might be shedding needles this season as well — here’s how to tell if there’s a problem with your tree," 10 Oct. 2020 Across social media, people shared their love of Harris' expressions, including her habit of staring straight into the camera and right into our living rooms. Stacey Leasca, Glamour, "The Internet Is Living for Kamala Harris's Facial Expressions," 8 Oct. 2020 Though the president won't be on the debate stage, he's resumed his frequent Twitter habit since returning to the White House on Monday after spending three days in a military hospital for COVID-19 treatment. Michelle L. Price, Star Tribune, "Viewer's Guide: Virus response on stage with Pence, Harris," 6 Oct. 2020 China has promised repeatedly to kick its coal habit, and the government has for years touted policies intended to clean up its act. Laura He, CNN, "China needs an economic revolution to deliver Xi's ambitious climate agenda," 6 Oct. 2020 As is her habit, Robinson keeps going over the emotional ground, edging backward and forward in time, in slow scenes with many passages of repetitive, inconclusive dialogue. Hermione Lee, The New York Review of Books, "Sympathy for the Devil," 6 Oct. 2020 This is, after all, Trump’s mantra, his lifelong habit. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "“This Is So Unpresidential”: Notes from the Worst Debate in American History," 30 Sep. 2020 But his Democratic debate habit of frequently losing his train of thought was on full display. TheWeek, "Vintage Trump goes debating in a new world," 30 Sep. 2020

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

20 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Habit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for habit

habit

noun
How to pronounce habit (audio)

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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