habit

noun
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

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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For those of us who make a habit of investing our allegiance in underdogs, then, the World Cup often reads like an interminable, run-on sentence of tragedy, loosely punctuated with eruptions of joy. Kanishk Tharoor, The Atlantic, "The Elusive Underdog Magic of the World Cup," 14 July 2018 The Diamondbacks have made a habit of outs at home. Nick Piecoro, azcentral, "Diamondbacks' Torey Lovullo: Initial update on Shelby Miller’s elbow positive," 13 July 2018 In the battle of Trump vs. industry, Trump doesn’t always win Trump has a made a habit of trying to strong-arm companies into bending to his will and attacking them by name. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Trump got Pfizer to reverse its drug price hikes — but he gave up some big concessions," 11 July 2018 Meanwhile, Trump has also made a habit of rebuffing allies like French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on issues including trade, climate change and the Iran deal. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Trump’s NATO trip shows ‘America First’ is ‘America Alone’," 11 July 2018 Playing uptempo is something the Kings need to make a habit in the regular season. Jason Jones, sacbee, "The Kings want to 'get out and run.' Why that best suits Justin Jackson's game," 9 July 2018 Elliott, just 22, has made a habit of getting the most out of his car during qualifying at Daytona. Edgar Thompson, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Chase Elliott captures the pole at Coke Zero Sugar 400," 7 July 2018 Colombians are making a habit out of impressing Real Madrid during the World Cup. SI.com, "Real Madrid Make Contact Over James Rodriguez's Colombia Teammate After He Impresses at World Cup," 26 June 2018 Still, third-round leaders haven’t exactly made habit of strolling to victory, either. Mike Anthony, courant.com, "Mike Anthony: Paul Casey, Stress Free And Bogey Free, In Perfect Position At Travelers Championship," 24 June 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.

See More

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

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

Verb

see habit entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about habit

Dictionary Entries near habit

habilitate

hability

Habiru

habit

habitable

habitacle

habitally

Statistics for habit

Last Updated

31 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for habit

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 \

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 \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

playful or foolish behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!