This reference states:

The two words "wholistic" and "holistic" have very different meanings, but there is some confusion and they are often used in an incorrect manner. The two words have very distinct meanings though somewhat similar in definition. Wholistic refers to the whole, a whole item or whole body of a person or thing. The word defines the consideration of the entire structure or makeup, which includes the body, mind and the spirit in the case of a human being. The word holistic is connected to holism, which focuses on the total entity and the interdependence of the diverse parts of this totality. Holistic has to do with the healing systems that are considered alternative like homeopathy and Ayurveda that deal with the human body as an interconnected whole

And yet another search:

adjective: wholistic
1. variant spelling of holistic.

Is there any difference?

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    That first reference itself refers to a site about homoeopathy. I do not agree with it: they certainly have no "very different meanings". I would say they are merely alternative spellings of the same concept, one from Greek, the other a further Anglicised version of the Greek. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Nov 28 '13 at 3:15
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    Sounds like the distinction being made is a romantic one – Dodgie Nov 28 '13 at 3:17
  • I have wondered myself. I usually go to spell holistic as wholistic and the spell checker always objects, so I thought I would investigate – user163849 Nov 28 '13 at 3:29
  • I didn't see the deleted answer, or the person who commented to ignore it – user163849 Nov 28 '13 at 3:31

Wholistic is holistic, but spelled wrong, or at least spelled aberrantly. Holistic is always defined in terms of the philosophy of holism.

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    +1, but do you have an authoritative reference to support this? – user163849 Nov 28 '13 at 3:28
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    I googled both holistic and wholistic. The latter word barely exists outside of commercial promotion contexts. The ratio was around 800:1. You'll find a similar situation on google with missile and its common misspelling, missle. – Michael Owen Sartin Nov 29 '13 at 17:55
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    Here is the Ngram chart link, conferming the huge divergence. – Mari-Lou A Apr 29 '14 at 8:21
  • Be careful. I suppose the ratio is different with nuclear and nucular. – skymningen Apr 29 '14 at 9:53
  • Holism Philosophy Basic Definition; I agree with that, but the answer is too short and phrased in a way that slows digestibility. Speaking in negatives, or starting with them, summons the thing to mind that you are asking people to avoid. Don't slip! vs. Watch for banana peels! – NOTjust -- user4304 Dec 9 '19 at 2:19

As an educator of English language, literature, and linguistics, I can confirm there is no actual difference between the words. "Holistic" is the formal academic spelling of the word, while "wholistic" is an Anglican version of the spelling (as someone mentioned above.) Both spellings are informally recognized, and both have the same effectual meaning.

Confusion often arises because of the increased familiarity with the term "holistic medicine". It's what we call a "non-coined" term. The original word existed before the modern association, but its definition has now become almost exclusively paired with the medicinal practice. In day-to-day use, people tend to automatically slant the meaning of the word towards medicine in their minds.

In the end, the words are interchangeable, though "wholistic" is not academically recognized.


"Wholistic" was first used in 1941, while "Holistic" was first used in 1926. (O.E.D)

But none the less, "wholistic" is the preferred word when describing something viewed a whole, rather than in parts, since "holistic medicine" comes with a 'whole' bunch of mental baggage that has nothing to do with viewing something as a whole.

Perhaps it's best to dump the whole thing and just say gestalt :P

  • Funny, Holistic always makes me think of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency as opposed to holistic medicine – Basic Jun 12 '14 at 19:37
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    I wonder if there's a locational difference here. I've been surprised at the number of people saying that "holistic" is so strongly associated with medicine. I think that in the UK people use it to describe approaches to all manner of things, and I don't recall ever having come across the spelling with a 'w'. I only clicked on the link to this question because I was curious as to the number of answers, given that I thought the answer was just "wholistic is an incorrect spelling". – Rupe Jul 8 '14 at 23:56
  • @Rupe I'm English and I'd consider it exactly the opposite of what you say. Making assumptions that your experience is the same as everyone else's is a dangerous mistake to make. From my English perspective, 'Wholistic' come from the word 'whole' as in fully inclusive / inter-relational. 'Holistic' just appears to me as one of the many changes the American powers made when deliberately forking and formalising their version of the language some time after Independence. – Phill Healey Mar 5 at 13:40
  • I made no such assumption. I was explicitly accepting that other people's experience is different and expressing curiosity about that fact. You are in fact implying a far stronger conclusion from your own experience than I was from mine! And isn't that conclusion (that "holistic" is a later, Americanised form) directly refuted by this evidence from the OED? – Rupe Mar 17 at 4:41

The word "Holistic" relates to the whole of something.

"Wholistic" appears to originally be a misspelled version of holistic, but has become a word used semi-interchangeably.

From Merriam-Webster: "relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts (holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body) (holistic ecology views humans and the environment as a single system)"

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holistic

  • Would that be the Miriam Webster that deliberately rewrote the English language when formalising the American version of English some time after independence? – Phill Healey Mar 5 at 13:42