What does the idiom "by force of habit" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase by force of habit, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression by force of habit used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "by force of habit"


The phrase "by force of habit" refers to an action that has become so deeply ingrained in someone's behavior that it is done almost unconsciously. It is typically used to describe a behavior that is done automatically, often due to long-term repetition or conditioning, and is not necessarily desired or beneficial.


The term “by force of habit” dates back to the 16th century and is derived from the Latin phrase “habitus fortis”, which literally translates to “strong habit”. In its current usage, the phrase applies to anything that has become a natural and perhaps unintentional part of someone's routine.


The phrase "by force of habit" is typically used to describe a recurrent action that is done often without any conscious thought. It is typically used in a negative way to imply that the behavior is not necessarily beneficial or desired. For example, a smoker might say, "I still smoke, even though I know it's bad for me… it's just by force of habit at this point." The term can also be used in a positive context to describe a behavior that has been repeatedly practiced, often with great effort and dedication. For example, one might say, "She became an excellent pianist by force of habit, practicing for hours every day for years."

Example Sentences

  • I've been getting up early for work every day for so long that it's just by force of habit at this point.
  • I can never remember where I put my keys, but luckily I know that I always put them in the same place, by force of habit.
  • Her language skills improved greatly by force of habit, repeating the same phrases over and over until she had them memorized.

The meanings of the words in the "by force of habit" idiom

The power of idioms transcends languages!

"Putting the cart before the horse" is an English idiom that means doing things in the wrong order. In Russian, the similar idiom is "Кладёт колесо впереди лошади," which translates to "Putting the cart before the horse." This idiom emphasizes the idea that doing things in the wrong order can lead to confusion and problems down the line.


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