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[hoh-liz-uh m] /ˈhoʊ lɪz əm/
Philosophy. the theory that whole entities, as fundamental components of reality, have an existence other than as the mere sum of their parts.
Compare organicism (def 1).
Also, holiatry. Medicine/Medical. care of the entire patient in all aspects of well-being, including physical, psychological, and social.
Psychology. any psychologic system postulating that the human mind must be studied as a unit rather than as a sum of its individual parts.
Origin of holism
hol- + -ism; term introduced by J.C. Smuts in Holism and Evolution (1926)
Related forms
holist, noun
Can be confused
holism, wholism. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for holism


any doctrine that a system may have properties over and above those of its parts and their organization
the treatment of any subject as a whole integrated system, esp, in medicine, the consideration of the complete person, physically and psychologically, in the treatment of a disease See also alternative medicine
(philosophy) one of a number of methodological theses holding that the significance of the parts can only be understood in terms of their contribution to the significance of the whole and that the latter must therefore be epistemologically prior Compare reductionism, atomism (sense 2)
Word Origin
C20: from holo- + -ism
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for holism

1926, apparently by South African Gen. J.C. Smuts (1870-1950) in his book "Holism and Evolution" which treats of evolution as a process of unification of separate parts; from Greek holos "whole" (see safe (adj.)) + -ism.

This character of "wholeness" meets us everywhere and points to something fundamental in the universe. Holism (from [holos] = whole) is the term here coined for this fundamental factor operative towards the creation of wholes in the universe. [Smuts, "Holism and Evolution," p.86]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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holism in Medicine

holism ho·lism (hō'lĭz'əm)

  1. The theory that living matter or reality is made up of organic or unified wholes that are greater than the simple sum of their parts.

  2. A holistic investigation or system of treatment.

ho·lis'tic (hō-lĭs'tĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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