not wholesome; unhealthful; deleterious to health or physical or moral well-being: unwholesome food; unwholesome activities.
not sound in health; unhealthy, especially in appearance; suggestive of disease: an unwholesome pallor.

Origin of unwholesome

Middle English word dating back to 1150–1200; see origin at un-1, wholesome
Related formsun·whole·some·ly, adverbun·whole·some·ness, noun

Synonyms for unwholesome

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unwholesome

Contemporary Examples of unwholesome

  • In an interview this week, Egeland strongly defended the propriety of delivering aid to unwholesome parts of northern Syria.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why Humanitarians Talk to ISIS

    Joshua Hersh

    October 24, 2014

Historical Examples of unwholesome

  • That he succumbed to the unwholesome atmosphere cannot surprise us.


    James Cotter Morison

  • There was about it all, all the time, a tainted and unwholesome atmosphere.

    This Freedom

    A. S. M. Hutchinson

  • This makes a sort of tea soup, at once bitter and unwholesome.

    Camp and Trail

    Stewart Edward White

  • The sorcerer is outlawed, and betakes himself to the secret performance of unholy rites in dark and unwholesome circumstances.

  • It is wonderful how the touch of the kindly mother earth cleanses the soul from its unwholesome humors.

British Dictionary definitions for unwholesome



detrimental to physical or mental healthan unwholesome climate
morally harmful or depravedunwholesome practices
indicative of illness, esp in appearance
(esp of food) of inferior quality
Derived Formsunwholesomely, adverbunwholesomeness, noun
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

Word Origin and History for unwholesome

c.1200, from un- (1) "not" + wholesome. Cf. Flemish onheylsaem, German unheilsam, Old Norse uheilsamr.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper