1

habit

noun hab·it \ ˈha-bət \
|Updated on: 11 Jul 2018
1 : a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior
  • her habit of taking a morning walk
2 a : 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
3 a : 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

Examples of habit in a Sentence

  1. It was his habit to take a nap after dinner every evening.

  2. It's important that parents teach their children good study habits.

  3. He fell into some bad habits after graduating from college.

  4. It's never easy to break a bad habit.

  5. He still gets up early every day from habit.

  6. She always closed the door softly out of habit.

  7. He hasn't been able to kick his cocaine habit.

Recent Examples of habit from the Web

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 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.

Origin and Etymology of habit

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

Other Equestrian Terms


2

habit

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

Examples of habit in a Sentence

  1. his exclusive clothing store had habited the town's upper crust for as long as anyone could remember

Origin and Etymology of habit

see 1habit


HABIT Defined for English Language Learners

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 Defined for Kids

habit

noun hab·it \ ˈha-bət \
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.

Medical Dictionary

habit

noun hab·it \ ˈhab-ət \
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
3 a : 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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