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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English helthful, helþful, helþeful, equivalent to health +‎ -ful.


healthful (comparative healthfuller or more healthful, superlative healthfullest or most healthful)

  1. Beneficial to bodily health.
    • 1906, Princeton Alumni Weekly, volume 7, page 210:
      Hockey is an exciting and healthful form of exercise, well suited to college students []
  2. Conducive to moral or spiritual prosperity; salutary.
    • 1842, [anonymous collaborator of Letitia Elizabeth Landon], chapter XXXIII, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 128:
      She trusted it was a sign that his mind was recovering a more healthful state, that he was not obliged to refer to his imagination, and, by giving her an ideal existence, compel himself to love her as the representative of another; surely, if he could do so long without the real Margarita, and appear cheerful and happy as he used to do when in England, he might (now that death had really taken her, poor thing!) resign her entirely, and love his wife, []
    • 1926, Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, Folio Society, published 2008, page 30:
      As he had been thinking for months about leaving his wife and had not done it because it would be too cruel to deprive her of himself, her departure was a very healthful shock.
  3. (archaic) Synonym of healthy (evincing health)
    • 1835, [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], “The Knight of Provençe, and His Proposal”, in Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes. [], volume I, London: Saunders and Otley, [], →OCLC, book II (The Revolution), page 184:
      His fair hair waved long and freely over a white and unwrinkled forehead: the life of a camp and the suns of Italy had but little embrowned his clear and healthful complexion, which retained much of the bloom of youth.

Usage notes[edit]

When a clearer distinction is intended, healthy is used to describe the state of the object, and healthful describes its ability to impart health to the recipient. Vegetables in good condition are both healthy (i.e., not rotten or diseased) and healthful (i.e., they improve the eaters' health, compared to eating junk food). By contrast, a poisonous plant can be healthy, but it is not healthful to eat of.


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Related terms[edit]