Old Habits Die Hard – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

“Old habits die hard” is a proverb popularized in 1758 by Benjamin Franklin. But what does the phrase “old habits die hard” really mean? Where does it come from? How do we use it in a sentence? All the answers to your questions are right here in my guide.

“Old Habits Die Hard” Meaning

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“Old habits die hard” is an idiomatic expression, which means it is difficult to stop habits that have been done for a long time. For example, if you grew up always biting your nails, it can be hard to stop now that you’re an adult.

Habits are self-reinforcing. They can only be broken by removing the stimulus, such as a craving or reward. Because breaking such repetitive actions is difficult, we can say that “old habits die hard.”

It is an idiomatic expression because an old habit does not literally die. Instead, we use figurative meaning. It is also a proverb or a short, common saying or phrase.

“Old Habits Die Hard” Exact Origin

Based on America’s Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Titleman, the saying “Old habits die hard” was first used in 1450. However, the exact reference is yet to be verified.

The proverb was also first cited in the USA in 1758 by Benjamin Franklin. It was printed in the London Chronicle. Since then, “Old habits die hard” has steadily risen in popularity.

The noun die-hard is also related to the expression. It refers to an individual who resists change.

Examples of the Phrase Old Habits Die Hard in a Sentence

  • I just can’t wake up early because I’m a night person and stay up too late. I guess old habits die hard.
  • Old habits really do die hard; my parents are proof of that. To this day, they still spend their mornings with a cup of coffee and an old-fashioned newspaper that they pay extra for.
  • My sister is living proof that old habits die hard. Even though I’ve told her a dozen times, she still goes to bed with her makeup on.
  • I’m sorry, I can’t stop eating hot sauce on everything. Old habits die hard, I guess.
  • Old habits die hard, and my boss is proof of that. He still treats his employees like robots and refuses to make any changes at the company to make us happy.
  • Man, old habits die hard! I make the same resolutions every year, try them for a few days, then give up and go back to my old ways of eating horrible food and never exercising.

Old habits die hard and we all tussle with forming virtuous habits. Every New Year, people pick resolutions: losing weight, quitting smoking, eating healthy, waking up early, going running, etc. only to give up sooner! (India Today)

Learn More Proverbs

“Old habits die hard” is a famous saying that means it’s difficult to stop a habit that’s been going on for a long time. It could refer to a figurative habit or a physical habit. Using proverbs adds color to your writing or speech. What other sayings do you want to learn?