English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is the English adjective "whole" genealogically related in any way to the adjective "holos", which means "whole" in Koine (and possibly other varieties of Greek; I'm not sure), and has a similar pronunciation? If so, how are they related?

share|improve this question
@z7sg, Why did you delete your post? I couldn't even upvote it! – Thursagen Jun 4 '11 at 1:36
@Third Idiot I leapt to the completely opposite and wrong conclusion! – z7sg Ѫ Jun 4 '11 at 1:40
Ah, well, you've corrected it, and its equally great -- in the opposite direction. – Thursagen Jun 4 '11 at 1:48
up vote 6 down vote accepted

They sound very similar but are actually unrelated.

The Proto-Indo-European root of whole is *koilas. From etymonline:

whole (adj.)

O.E. hal "entire, unhurt, healthy," from P.Gmc. *khailaz "undamaged" (cf. O.S. hel, O.N. heill, O.Fris. hal, M.Du. hiel, Du. heel, O.H.G., Ger. heil "salvation, welfare"), from PIE *koilas (cf. O.S.C. celu "whole, complete;" see health). The spelling with wh- developed early 15c.

Greek holos is related to English safe and several other words, including Catholic.

safe (adj.)

late 13c., "uninjured, unharmed," from O.Fr. sauf, from L. salvus "uninjured, healthy, safe," related to salus "good health," saluber "healthful," all from PIE *solwos from base *sol- "whole" (cf. L. solidus "solid," Skt. sarvah "uninjured, intact, whole," Avestan haurva- "uninjured, intact," O.Pers. haruva-, Gk. holos "whole"). Meaning "not exposed to danger" is attested from late 14c.; of actions, etc., "free from risk," first recorded 1580s. Safe-conduct (late 13c.) is from O.Fr. sauf-conduit (13c.).

share|improve this answer
+1 for the great answer. I wish I could also give you another +1 for the link to etymonline.com ! – Brennan Vincent Jun 4 '11 at 1:29
Um, not great I messed um completely. Fixed now. :) Etymonline is the greatest... – z7sg Ѫ Jun 4 '11 at 1:39
I'd like to link my answer in this question, since it's related: Meaning of "hail to the king". – Alenanno Jun 4 '11 at 10:44

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.