What proverb in English means that people get rid of old habits hard? (if there are any)

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    You can't make a rat believe he's a dolphin by kicking him repeatedly in the balls. – Ricky Jan 7 '16 at 8:57
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    It is unclear what is meant in this question by "get rid of old habits hard". Is it meant that "it is hard to get rid of old habits", or "when you get rid of them, you get rid of them hard (i.e. completely)"? – AndyT Jan 7 '16 at 10:58
  • @AndyT the title had been modified twice, the original, and now-restored title, is less ambiguous. Bravo Hugh someone did the right thing, and rolled back the edits. I wasn't alone in thinking that the edit was poorly phrased. – Mari-Lou A Jan 7 '16 at 11:02
  • Hi @Mari-LouA - I thought the edited title was poorly phrased, but I don't think the question body is any better. "Hard" is being used as an adverb. Looking at this list (nos 42-50), I'm unsure which sense the OP means. I believe "old habits die hard" uses sense 45: "so as to solid, tight, firm", but that doesn't work with "to quit", does it? (Genuine question, not rhetorical). Hence I wonder if he means sense 42: "with great exertion", but that doesn't quite sound right (to me) either. Hence my "unclear" comment. – AndyT Jan 7 '16 at 11:29
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    @AndyT well it is up to the OP to clarify, we cannot read his mind or know his real intention but the comments should help him see that "it's hard to give up an old habit" and "get rid of (give up) old habits hard" is ambiguous. But the fact he has accepted an answer, means the respondent understood the question well enough. – Mari-Lou A Jan 7 '16 at 11:50

An appropriate idiom would be "Old habits die hard".
"An old dog will learn no tricks." is a proverb and is a lesser used form of "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

It is impossible to change people's habits, traits or mindset.

Source: Wiktionary and Know Your Phrase

  • Hi, Minion, I edited your post to include essential parts of the source and for formatting. Please take a look by clicking edited X minutes ago above my user name. It could be helpful to you. Good luck! – user140086 Jan 7 '16 at 8:45
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    +1 for Old habits die hard a well-known saying. But the one about the dog is usually You can't teach an old dog new tricks. – WS2 Jan 7 '16 at 11:22

Depending on the context a leopard can't change its spots may be appropriate.

This proverb means that despite all efforts (or advice), a person will revert back to their old self (habits). It is usually used when referring to bad habits.

This idiom comes from the Old Testament (Jer. 13:23). The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah tries to persuade an evil shepherdess to become good but when he realises that it is impossible to convince her, he says: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?”

From: bloomsbury international


How about this?

A dog's tail can never be straightened.

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    We have this idiom in our ( Georgian ) language. – Beqa Sep 3 '18 at 14:15
  • @Beqa Nice to know. We have the same in Hindi as well :) – Abhirath Mahipal Sep 4 '18 at 15:24

Another saying that may be relevant is this one, cited in both Rosalind Fergusson, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (1983) and Wolfgang Mieder, A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992):

Habits are at first cobwebs, at last cables.

The sense of the expression, of course, is that the longer we do a thing, and the more accustomed to doing it we become, the harder it is for us to give up.

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