hab·it | \ˈha-bət \

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


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


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


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.


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

Malala has made a habit of ringing in her birthdays — made an annual global holiday, Malala Day, in 2013 by the United Nations — by embarking on charitable missions. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "Malala Yousafzai Joins Instagram on Her 21st Birthday," 12 July 2018 In the aftermath, some customers have changed their coffee habits for good. Aubrey Nagle, Philly.com, "ICE protester sues Philly police, young Pa. farmers shake up industry | Morning Newsletter," 11 July 2018 The tournament is also probably experiencing the effects of rapidly changing viewership habits, according to sports media consultant Chris Bevilacqua. Bloomberg, Fortune, "World Cup Ratings Are a Complete Nightmare for Fox and Comcast," 22 June 2018 Ed Teisanu, a sales manager in Minnesota, doesn't think a new tax will change his buying habits, which is a mix of in-store and online. Joseph Pisani, The Christian Science Monitor, "Online shopping just got a bit more expensive with new sales tax rule," 22 June 2018 And until consumers get that message, and respond by changing their spending habits, the incentive for wineries and vineyards to go green — and to prove it with a certification — will remain based on good faith. Esther Mobley, SFChronicle.com, "California wine’s sustainability dilemma," 22 June 2018 The general also said the military was working to change police habits. Peter Prengaman, Fox News, "Military collects donations, teaches Rio police about phones," 13 June 2018 The general also said the military was working to change police habits. Washington Post, "Military collects donations, teaches Rio police about phones," 13 June 2018 Even as the market began to recover, apparel companies faced the twin headwinds of changing fashion and changing buying habits. Rob Wile, miamiherald, "He created Miami's most famous clothing company. Now he wants it back. | Miami Herald," 17 May 2018

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1594, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for habit


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


see habit entry 1

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Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for habit

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

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More Definitions for habit



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


hab·it | \ˈha-bət \

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.


hab·it | \ˈhab-ət \

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

What made you want to look up habit? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

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