We all know the difference between a “whole” and a “hole”. Whole donuts and bagels have both!
For most things, if they have a hole, they are not whole. That happens to me all the time with my socks (damn it!). I always thought that “whole milk” had to feel superior to other types of milk. It has to be a look at the other types of milk: I am the best there is – I am whole.
Sure, that’s a lot of “hole” talk, but now is the time to examine the difference between the words “holistic” and “holistic”. What is the difference between these two words besides the “w”?
Let’s start with definitions.
Holistic is an adjective that describes the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Clear as mud? And did you catch the word “whole” in the definition? I am already confused.
That didn’t help much, so let’s look at the definition of “holistic”. After I got to his dictionary entry, I found a one-word definition: holistic. Thanks for cleaning up, dictionary.
OK, maybe we should turn back the clock to investigate the origins of the words. The word “holistic” was first used in the 1920s when the South African statesman Jan Smuts used it in his book “Holism and Evolution”. By the way, is “statesman” a job? Then I would like to know the starting salary.
The term “holistic” actually originated from “holistic” after Mr. Smuts developed the idea of holism. Over the past century, both words have evolved to have slightly different meanings (emphasis on “easy”).
The words are used interchangeably, but there is a more precise distinction: the term “holistic” is used to underline the entirety of something – the whole. When someone is using “holistically” (especially in therapeutic areas) they are likely to emphasize the interaction and interdependence of the parts.
However, other jargon monsters insist that “holistic” is just a wrong spelling of “holistic” and do not recommend anyone to use the spelling “w”. Although it may have started that way, I see a little contrast between the two (kind of like the difference between the ecru and mother-of-pearl colors). It’s subtle, but the difference is there.
For the folks who deal with misspellings, let me get straight to the point: According to the Google Books Ngram Viewer, “holistic” is used over 100 times more often than the word “holistic” in published books. It’s hard to drill holes in this theory.
As a head-scratching pair of words, I think we can make a subtle distinction between holistic and holistic. However, if you do decide to choose one over the other, choose holistic.
Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of Good Grammar’s “Life of the Party: Tips for Living a Highly Successful Life”. Find more under curtishoneycutt.com. “