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

Let’s be honest, many of our habits are a reflection of the women who raised us. Jennifer Ford, Essence, "Lala Swears By This $3 Eye Makeup Remover," 7 July 2019 His habit of disappearing into blue funks is the product of a thin skin. Boris Johnson, The Economist, "Boris Johnson, illusionist," 4 July 2019 Others have added a healthy dose of paranoia to their daily habits. Katy Steinmetz/ukiah, Time, "California Is Stepping Up Fire Prevention Efforts—But It Hasn't Fixed One of the Biggest Problems," 2 July 2019 Dietitians and nutritionists will, like Miss Manners, remind you that, as a nation, our eating habits are a good deal too efficient already. Judith Martin, The Mercury News, "Miss Manners: A memorable way to keep neighbors’ guests from blocking the driveway," 19 June 2019 Dietitians and nutritionists will, like Miss Manners, remind you that, as a nation, our eating habits are a good deal too efficient already. Judith Martin, Washington Post, "Miss Manners: Neighbors’ guests keep blocking the driveway," 19 June 2019 All of this is to say, podcast listening habits are far more revealing than music taste. Ashley Carman, The Verge, "Spotify now allows advertisers to specifically target podcast listeners," 17 June 2019 What to Do During the Day Your habits during the day are just as important as your actions at night. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "How to Go to Sleep Fast, According to Sleep Specialists," 10 June 2019 Guys’ habits were better, there was less hesitation. Jimmy Greenfield, chicagotribune.com, "'We certainly need to take a step forward': Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman on the NHL draft, free agency and the pressure to return to the playoffs," 8 June 2019

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

Dictionary Entries near habit

habilitate

hability

Habiru

habit

habitable

habitacle

habitally

Statistics for habit

Last Updated

11 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for habit

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

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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 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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More from Merriam-Webster on habit

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with habit

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for habit

Spanish Central: Translation of habit

Nglish: Translation of habit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of habit for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about habit

Comments on habit

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