adj. health·i·er, health·i·est
1. Possessing good health: a healthy child.
2. Conducive to good health; healthful: healthy air.
3. Indicative of sound, rational thinking or frame of mind: a healthy attitude.
4. Sizable; considerable: a healthy portion of peas; a healthy raise in salary.
So as to promote one's health; in a healthy way: If you eat healthy, you'll probably live longer.
Synonyms: healthy, wholesome, sound2, hale1, robust, well2
These adjectives refer to a state of good physical health. Healthy stresses the absence of disease or infirmity and is used of whole organisms as well as their parts: a healthy baby; flossed daily to promote healthy gums. Wholesome suggests a state of good health associated with youthful vitality or clean living: "In truth, a wholesome, ruddy, blooming creature she was" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
Healthy and wholesome are often extended to conditions or choices deemed conducive to good health: a healthy lifestyle; wholesome foods. Sound emphasizes freedom from injury, imperfection, or impairment: "The man with the toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound" (George Bernard Shaw).
Hale stresses freedom from infirmity, especially in elderly persons, while robust emphasizes healthy strength and ruggedness: "He is pretty well advanced in years, but hale, robust, and florid" (Tobias Smollett).
Well indicates absence of or recovery from illness: felt well enough to make the trip.
Usage Note: Some people insist on maintaining a distinction between the words healthy and healthful. In this view, healthful means "conducive to good health" and is applied to things that promote health, while healthy means "possessing good health," and is applied solely to people and other organisms. Accordingly, healthy people have healthful habits. However, healthy has been used to mean "healthful" since the 1500s, as in this example from John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education: "Gardening ... and working in wood, are fit and healthy recreations for a man of study or business." In fact, the word healthy is far more common than healthful when modifying words like diet, exercise, and foods, and healthy may strike many readers as more natural in many contexts. Certainly, both healthy and healthful must be considered standard in describing that which promotes health.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.