Healthy vs Healthful

Cracker Jack

Senior Member

I would like to hear from all of you. It seems that most of the in conversations, I hear description of habits as healthy. My notion of the word is that it is an adjective to describe any living being in a good state of health.

On the other hand, healthful refers to habits or states that promote or result to better health states.

It is healthful to avoid smoking & exercise regularly.
Eating fruits and vegetables is healthful.

The pupils are healthy.
The work requires people who are healthy.
 
  • GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    You are absolutely right. Healthful is the correct word to describe something that is beneficial to one's health.

    This is another example where, at least in AE our dear friends in the Marketing community, have taken the incorrect word form and made it common - all because it sounds better.

    I suppose we could get used to "Heart-Healthful," but it doesn't have the same verve and snap as "Heart-Healthy," or "Healthy Start."

    It's not the first time this type of evolution(?) has happened, and it certainly will not be the last.
     

    Kräuter_Fee

    Senior Member
    Portuguese & Spanish
    Usage Note: The distinction in meaning between healthy (“possessing good health”) and healthful (“conducive to good health”) was ascribed to the two terms only as late as the 1880s. This distinction, though tenaciously supported by some critics, is belied by citational evidence
    healthy has been used to mean “healthful” since the 16th century. Use of healthy in this sense is to be found in the works of many distinguished writers, with this example from John Locke being typical: “Gardening... and working in wood, are fit and healthy recreations for a man of study or business.” Therefore, both healthy and healthful are correct in these contexts: a healthy climate, a healthful climate; a healthful diet, a healthy diet.


    Copyright © 2005, Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I hate to say it, but I don't think healthful is really used in British English. I think we say healthy for both meanings. Healthful sounds awkward and contrived and you wouldn't catch it coming from my mouth. Maybe my compatriots would disagree, though. It is in the OED after all.
     

    Cracker Jack

    Senior Member
    Thanks a lot GenJen, Kraut and Aupick. It seems therefore that healthful is only used in AE and that in BE, it's always healthy in both cases. True enough Aupick, I read it in American magazines and in novels authored by Americans.

    Kraut, I've been trying to access the link you posted but it was unavailing. The only thing that I have seen so far is a blank page.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    So in BE it would read :
    It is healthy to avoid exercise and smoke regularly.

    Or is it the other way round ? I'm afraid I mixed it up with a statement by Sir Winston "no sport" Churchill. :)
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    LV4-26 said:
    So in BE it would read :
    It is healthy to avoid exercise and smoke regularly.

    Or is it the other way round ? I'm afraid I mixed it up with a statement by Sir Winston "no sport" Churchill. :)
    From my experience healthful is only used in formal AE. The sentence you gave as an example sounds fine to my ears.
     

    Thomas Veil

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    This is another example where, at least in AE our dear friends in the Marketing community, have taken the incorrect word form and made it common - all because it sounds better.
    It sounds better because it is correct. Is a person wrong and a statement wrongful? Is a person sad and a cloudy day sadful? Is a person suspicious and a situation suspiciousful?

    Logically, if we were making a distinction, a person who is full of health would be "healthful", while a food would be "healthy".

    You have it the wrong way around. The marketing community took the wrong word and made it common, all right. But the wrong word is "healthful", and it was promulgated because it sounded more "educated".
     

    Blurgle

    Member
    English - Canada
    To me, "healthful" has a whiff of snake oil. Healthy items are good for you; healthful items are faddish trends that may or may not be actually healthy.

    I'd steer away from anything called "healthful" in a supermarket.
     

    abenr

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    It sounds better because it is correct.
    It -- "healthy" -- sounds better to some people because it's heard so often, not necessarily because it's correct.

    "Ain't" sounds better to many people who use it frequently. "Ain't" is unacceptable English to most of us in the Word Reference Forum and is not correct.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    In support of my BrE colleagues, I don't think I have ever heard or read "healthful" until tonight. If I saw it, I would assume it was a mistake (because I'm not used to seeing it). I'm fairly confident that it isn't used at all in BrE.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    To me, "healthful" has a whiff of snake oil. Healthy items are good for you; healthful items are faddish trends that may or may not be actually healthy.

    I'd steer away from anything called "healthful" in a supermarket.
    This is all personal opinion rather than linguistic analysis. It may be accurate in some instances, but it is not useful as a generality. Both words, healthy and healthful, are used correctly at times and both are used to sell and oversell products.

    Shopping advice is outside the scope of these forums. ;)
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I would like to hear from all of you. It seems that most of the in conversations, I hear description of habits as healthy. My notion of the word is that it is an adjective to describe any living being in a good state of health.

    On the other hand, healthful refers to habits or states that promote or result to better health states.

    It is healthful to avoid smoking & exercise regularly.
    Eating fruits and vegetables is healthful.

    The pupils are healthy.
    The work requires people who are healthy.
    Although I've been known to use healthful in the manner you indicate, even in the last few years, it does now seem to me to be old-fashioned, and for that reason should perhaps be avoided.
     

    frog1gsu

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would like to ask whether "healthful" is an Americanism, since I believe I have never heard it spoken on this side of the Atlantic. I encountered it once in Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises/Fiesta", where he writes, "As he had been thinking for months about leaving his wife and had not done it because it would be too cruel to deprive her of himself, her departure was a very healthful shock."

    Has anybody heard of any other contexts in which this word is used?
    Thanks to you all.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Moderator's note:

    I have added the most recent question (above) to this existing thread because I think it is an interesting example of the use of healthful.

    People are invited to read the previous discussion and comment on this most recent post if they have something to add.

    Cagey, moderator.
     

    frog1gsu

    Senior Member
    British English
    I guess what I would like to know now is what difference, if any, Americans find between the two words "Healthful" and "healthy". Do they ever say, "I am feeling healthful", and if not, why not? When do they use one and not the other? Can they define the difference between the two. Thanks.
     

    Kunio

    Member
    American English
    "Healthful" is a mouthful. :p I'd like to say, as an American, that I would never say this word. I believe I've heard it used in a health food context like "This is a more healthful way of eating." but I personally think it sounds weird and is completely pointless when you have a perfectly good word like "healthy".
     

    MittensWiggum

    New Member
    British English, Welsh, French, Spanish
    Like in most languages - in the UK and Europe - you HAVE health... you can't use BE with health... (hence the American usage of 'healthful' - sorry even typing it makes me shudder I hate it so much!)

    You HAVE health / I have bad health
    You ARE healthy / Vegetables ARE healthy / sweets are unhealthy

    exceptions would be phrasal e.g. To be in good health;

    It's like saying instead of I am well saying "I have well"* impossible in English..

    Intrigued by the origin of USA usage of 'healthful' I wonder if it's like how everything has to be an 'ology' ... or 'age' - e.g. prime example from an episode of friends where Joey mentions "Foodal Chokage" lol using 'age' in that way... makes for great puns... ability to spin - Spinnage / Spinach; ability to sue someone Sue-age / sewage hahaha - love a bit of wordplay.

    Do you guys also use 'unhealthful'?!?!?!?!

    It's one of those words that baffles me as it is assumed it's 'correct' and used worldwide when it isn't... you can have 'a full mouth = mouthful' something can be 'full of wonder = wonderful' but you cannot be 'full' of health as it's using BE not HAVE... wrong verb... hence wrong usage.

    or else you could describe yourself as 'waterful' - as we are full of water daily... or 'muscleful' - come on we all got muscles and we are full of 'em right?! - except you HAVE water... or you HAVE muscles.... (see why it sounds so ridiculous?)

    More examples upon the same linguistic vein:

    Ideaful - I am full of ideas!* (I have ideas! = correct)
    Foodful - Wow I am so full of food dude... (it's just full... its a given!)


    I think it's a lot to do with linguistic laziness / text speak / shorthand / wanting to say things faster and in less words....

    "Carrots are full of healthy nutrients!" vs "Carrots are "healthful!"

    Six words bastardised into 3 for marketing / packaging convenience - like OP said - might be the reasoning behind it... it makes me despair for the language... and linguistic ability of children in current schooling.

    Just don't get me started on the infuriating use of 'alot' - which is so wrong my eyes bleed instead of 'a lot of'
     
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