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In Danish, there is the word »rask« (I am sure there are similar words in other Germanic languages), which means either 'not sick' or 'quick'. The latter sense is largely context dependent, and considered a bit old fashioned.

The advantage of the former meaning, is that one can ask »føler du dig rask?« (approx. 'do you feel not sick?'). I wonder if there is a word in English to convey the same meaning in a single word, so you can formulate the same kind of polar question.

The word 'healthy' (as in, 'do you feel healthy?') could also imply you lead a healthy lifestyle. One can be not sick, while also being unhealthy.

Similarly, the word 'well' (as in, 'do you feel well?') - while closer - could also imply different meanings, as it has different connotations. English is a second language to me, but I still have hard times grasping the exact meaning of 'well'.

And I feel, at times, that native English speakers have the same problem. If someone asks, 'do you feel well?', and my financial situation is looking bleak, and it's worrying me, but technically I do not feel sick, I would probably answer 'no'. But if someone asked me 'do you feel not sick?' in the same situation, I would answer 'yes'.

Am I misinterpreting the word 'well'? Or does English lack a clear singular word meaning 'not sick', that has broad consensus in terms of meaning? In Danish, since »rask« is an infrequently used word, its meaning is generally agreed upon. Unlike 'well'.

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    In BrE if someone asks me "Do you feel well?" I know they are asking if I am not sick, not whether I am in touch with my feelings. Similarly "I am feeling unwell." Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 8:30
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    @WeatherVane Or if someone half-suspected you were ill, they might say "Do you feel alright?"
    – WS2
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 8:33
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    I think if you told most British-English Speakers that you were not 'well' then said it was because of your finances, they would either assume you were so worried about money that it was making you ill or they would say 'I asked if you were 'well', not if you were 'well off'!'. Also, in British-English there is more of an assumption, though perhaps a declining one, that 'sick' means throwing up.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 11:59
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    @Spagirl This has always been a very common false friend for Danes (and speakers of several other Germanic languages), since the local cognates of sick (e.g., Danish syg) mean ‘ill’. The only sort-of exception I can think of is German, whose cognate, siech, is quite old-fashioned and literary and the normal word for ‘ill’ is instead krank. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 12:04
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    It's common to find your own language clear and unambiguous and a language you are learning ambiguous and hard to understand. This is often because you intuitively understand the context in your own language, but not other languages you are less familiar with.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 10:16

3 Answers 3

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"feeling well" is generally (as in almost always) used with health so yes, "Not sick" is synonymous with "well".

You can also use "in good health".

As pointed out above "feeling unwell" means "sick".

Although it should be noted that "sick" is ambiguous (nauseous, in bad health, unwell etc)

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  • Healthy is also fine. The question itself is based on a faulty premise. Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 18:35
  • Would your answer be the same if the word was 'ill' rather than 'sick'? I worry I may have made a mistranslation by using 'sick' rather than 'ill'.
    – Svip
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 9:43
  • @SVIP ''not ill' would be 'well', 'healthy' is more referring to general physical wellbeing but depending on context you could use 'feeling better', 'recovered' although they do presuppose you were ill. "Are you ill?" "No, I feel well" "No, I feel OK", "No, I'm feeling good" for actions in the present. 'Sick', as you correctly surmise, is ambiguous as, literally, it means nauseous.
    – Chris Pink
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 7:36
  • I can't resist it... 'in the pink'. Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 16:15
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As an adverb, "well" does indeed mean "good" in a general sense (or rather the suppleted "goodly"). But as an adjective, it is used exclusively for health. "I feel well" can mean either that the speaker has good health, or that their ability to feel is good. The idiomatic use is always the former; a bad ability to feel (whether emotional or physical) is a sign of ill health anyway.

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A bit archaic, and therefore most often used jocularly, is the word hale. It also survives in the idiom hale and hearty.

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