[ hoh-lis-tik ]
/ hoʊˈlɪs tɪk /
Save This Word!

incorporating the concept of holism, or the idea that the whole is more than merely the sum of its parts, in theory or practice: holistic psychology.
Medicine/Medical. identifying with principles of holism in a system of therapeutics, especially one considered outside the mainstream of scientific medicine, as naturopathy or chiropractic, and often involving nutritional measures: holistic medicine.
We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.
Question 1 of 8
Which of the following words describes “sky blue”?
Meet Grammar CoachWrite or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing
Meet Grammar CoachImprove Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help
Sometimes who·lis·tic .

Origin of holistic

First recorded in 1926; hol(ism) + -istic


ho·lis·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does holistic mean?

Holistic is an adjective that describes things related to the idea that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In other words, that the entirety of something must be considered instead of just considering its parts.

This philosophy is called holism, and that’s where the word holistic comes from. Holistic can be used generally to describe approaches that incorporate elements of holism, but it is especially used in the contexts of psychology and alternative medicine.

Example: Chiropractors often take a holistic approach to treating injuries by considering the entire body instead of just the affected area.

Where does holistic come from?

Holism was coined by Jan Christian Smuts in his 1926 book Holism and Evolution (Smuts completed the work between serving terms as prime minister of South Africa). The first part of the word, hol, refers to “whole,” and the suffix -ism means “principle” or “doctrine.” In holistic, the suffix -istic is used to make it an adjective.

In medical contexts, holistic describes an approach that attempts to treat the overall well-being of a person, including physically, psychologically, and socially. Because this approach differs from traditional Western medicine, holistic treatments are often associated with alternative medicine. Many practitioners of holistic medicine operate under the philosophy that the body must be treated as a whole unit, taking into account the complex interactions of its parts. A similar approach is associated with the use of the term holistic in psychology: the mind is studied as a single unit, rather than a combination of its different parts or functions.

Holistic is sometimes used more generally in the context of business and other fields. This usually involves analyzing an organization, project, or process as a whole, especially in order to be more effective or efficient (as in We need to take a holistic approach to this restructuring process). However, holistic in this context is sometimes seen as a buzzword, especially since it may be unclear what exactly it is supposed to mean.

When holistic is used in the context of alternative medicine, some people may perceive it as being unscientific.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of holistic?

  • holistically (adverb)
  • holism (noun)
  • wholistic (alternate spelling)

What are some words that share a root or word element with holistic

What are some words that often get used in discussing holistic?


How is holistic used in real life?

Holistic is often used in reference to alternative medicine, but its use has become more common in many other contexts.




Try using holistic!

True or false? 

If you take a holistic approach, you primarily focus on the individual parts of something.

How to use holistic in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for holistic

/ (həʊˈlɪstɪk) /

of or relating to a doctrine of holism
of or relating to the the medical consideration of the complete person, physically and psychologically, in the treatment of a disease

Derived forms of holistic

holistically, adverb
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