habit

noun
hab·​it | \ ˈha-bət How to pronounce habit (audio) \

Essential Meaning of habit

1 : a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way It was his habit to take a nap after dinner every evening. It's important that parents teach their children good study/eating habits. See More ExamplesHe fell/got into some bad habits after graduating from college. It's never easy to break/kick a bad habit. Old habits die hard. [=it is hard to stop doing things that you have been doing for a long time] He still gets up early every day from habit. She always closed the door softly out of habit. He reached into his pocket for his keys by/from force of habit. [=he did it without thinking because it is what he usually does] I'm a creature of habit. [=I always do the same things in the same way]Hide
2 : a strong need to use a drug, to smoke cigarettes, etc. He hasn't been able to kick his cocaine habit. I used to have a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit. [=I used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day]
3 : a piece of clothing worn by members of a religious group a monk's/nun's habit

Full 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

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 But, again, the Rock Hall has a habit of digging too deep into the blues, a genre that can struggle when using a point system such as ours that’s focused on landmark albums and songs. Troy L. Smith, cleveland, 11 Jan. 2022 Past actors who've played the Doctor have a habit of returning to reprise the role, as David Tennant did for the show's 50th anniversary special in 2013. Clark Collis, EW.com, 1 Jan. 2022 There's the fact that Putin is basically a dictator and has a habit of using wars of aggression against weaker neighbors to boost his public profile (a short, successful war is a classic political sugar high). Ryan Cooper, The Week, 28 Dec. 2021 Democrats, like many political parties, have a habit of campaigning in poetry and governing in prose. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 14 Dec. 2021 But taking our expectations down a notch can actually make developing the habit of home cooking more feasible for the long haul. Washington Post, 3 Jan. 2022 Another small study published in 2017 in the American Journal of Nephrology found that people who quit smoking were half as likely to experience GFR decline than those who continued the habit over a five-year period. Hallie Levine, Health.com, 3 Jan. 2022 Betty Feng, the food scientist at Purdue University who led the survey, told me that her colleagues in other countries are sometimes surprised to hear about this habit. Rachel Gutman, The Atlantic, 29 Dec. 2021 By exercising your conflict muscle, adopting a healthy mindset, and ditching the habit of blaming, your conflict resolution skills can grow and flourish. Anna Shields, Forbes, 23 Dec. 2021

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

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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Dictionary Entries Near habit

Habiru

habit

habitable

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Statistics for habit

Last Updated

18 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Habit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit. Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for habit

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 Fleishman, 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

More from Merriam-Webster on habit

Nglish: Translation of habit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of habit for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about habit

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