Habitus and Habits

Building blocks © by DBduo Photography

Yesterday I gave the origin of the idea “habit”; I showed that habit is a borrowed word from Latin and that the English word for habits is “wonts”. This word comes from Indo-European “wen-“. But there are still some interesting things about the word “habit” that I would like to write about.

Habitus in Latin means to have, to own or to respond to. Aristotle used the Greek derivation of habitus, hexis, to describe a feature that is lasting and acquired. I.e. according to Aristotle habitus is not a feature that people have from birth.

In the beginning of the 20th century Marcel Mauss, French sociologist, introduced the idea that habitus is the part of our culture that we cannot express verbally. He claims that habitus is a kind of knowledge that ideologies are based upon. This shows the importance of habits as building blocks for a successful life. Habits are the foundation that you build your life upon.

Another French sociologist and philosopher, Pierre Bourdieu, said that habitus is cultural structures in peoples body and mind. These structures can be made both consciously and unconsciously. This means that we can use our conscious mind to create habits and we can do this by communicating with people in social relations.

By mastering the language you have power; you have the power to change your habits; you have the power to influence people and you have the power to master your own destiny.

The Origin of Habit

Parisian Love Lock © by thezartorialist.com

Why should you be interested in the origin of the word habit? Because I believe that the language we use creates the reality we live in and by examining history we can better understand the components of a concept or an idea. In the case of habits I will show some important key elements of the concept. E.g. emotion is a core concept of habits; emotions are essential to the existence of a habit.

It is both rewarding and interesting to study history to understand better and I have made some research on the word “habit”. I have tracked the word back to the Indo-European word “ghabh” meaning to grab or to take. Indo-European is the language family most European languages come from and English follows a branch of the family consisting of Germanic, West Germanic, Anglo-Frisian and Anglic.

“Habit” comes from Indo-European but it did not develop into the Germanic branch of languages; it was adopted from French monks about year 1300. The synonym “wonts” is not used much anymore but that is the original word for the meaning “habit” has today.

“Wonts” comes from the Indo-European word “wen-“ that means love, want or win. If you study the words that come from “wen-“ you will discover that they all have emotions in common. They express something that we have a strong feeling for; something we love or something we have a strong desire to own.

Thus, a habit is connected to words like love, want, take and win. They are all strong words that express emotion, desire, action and vision. Most of the models and tools that are developed to assist you getting success in life encompass desire, action and vision, but very often they miss out emotions.