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Alternative forms[edit]


From earlier holesome, from Middle English holsom, holsum, helsum, halsum, from Old English *hālsum, *hǣlsum, from Proto-West Germanic *hailasam, from Proto-Germanic *hailasamaz, equivalent to whole +‎ -some. Cognate with Saterland Frisian heelsoam, Dutch heilzaam, German Low German heelsaam, German heilsam, Icelandic heilsamur, Norwegian Nynorsk helsesam, Swedish hälsosam (wholesome).


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈhol.səm/
  • (file)


wholesome (comparative more wholesome or wholesomer, superlative most wholesome or wholesomest)

  1. Promoting good physical health and well-being.
  2. Promoting moral and mental well-being.
    • 1750, “Theodora”, Thomas Morell (lyrics), George Frideric Handel (music)‎[1]:
      Though hard, my friends, yet wholesome are the truths, taught in affliction's school, whence the pure soul rises refined, and soars above the world.
  3. Favourable to morals, religion or prosperity; sensible; conducive to good; salutary; promoting virtue or being virtuous.
  4. Marked by wholeness; sound and healthy.
  5. Decent; innocuous; sweet.
    • 1961 November 10, Joseph Heller, “The Soldier in White”, in Catch-22 [], New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, →OCLC, page 171:
      The more solicitous of the two was Nurse Cramer, a shapely, pretty, sexless girl with a wholesome unattractive face.
    • 2017 April 13, Mitchy Collins, Samantha Derosa, Christian Medice, “Broken”, in Finding It Hard to Smile[2], performed by Lovelytheband:
      There's something tragic, but almost pure
      Think I could love you, but I'm not sure
      There's something wholesome, there's something sweet
      Tucked in your eyes that I'd love to meet
    • 2019, Gretchen McCulloch, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, Riverhead Books, →ISBN:
      Around the same time, “wholesome” memes of cute doggos and puppers rejuvenated social media feeds that seemed daily filled with fresh horrors.
    • 2020 February 3, Kaitlyn Tiffany, “The Misogynistic Joke That Became a Goth-Meme Fairy Tale”, in The Atlantic[3]:
      The comment section on a recent post making fun of a “cute” and “wholesome” Doomer Girl meme is mixed.



Derived terms[edit]