a. A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition: made a habit of going to bed early.
b. An established disposition of the mind or character: a pessimistic habit.
c. Customary manner or practice: an early riser by habit.
d. An addiction, especially to a narcotic drug.
2. Characteristic appearance, form, or manner of growth, especially of a plant or crystal: "The habit of an apple tree is fine for the small garden" (Robert Dash).
a. A distinctive set of clothing or style of dressing, especially of a religious order.
b. A riding habit.
4. Archaic Physical constitution.
tr.v. hab·it·ed, hab·it·ing, hab·its
1. To clothe; dress.
2. To clothe in a habit, especially a nun's habit.
[Middle English, clothing, from Old French, clothing, behavior, custom, from Latin habitus, from past participle of habēre, to have; see ghabh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: habit, practice, custom, wont
These nouns denote patterns of behavior established by continual repetition. Habit applies to a behavior or practice so ingrained that it is often done without conscious thought: "Habit rules the unreflecting herd" (William Wordsworth).
Practice denotes an often chosen pattern of individual or group behavior: "You will find it a very good practice always to verify your references, sir" (Martin Joseph Routh).
Custom is behavior as established by long practice and especially by accepted conventions: "No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by popular opinion" (Carrie Chapman Catt).
Wont refers to a customary and distinctive practice: "Miss Roxy sat bolt upright, as was her wont" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.