Definition of holism in English:



  • 1The theory that parts of a whole are in intimate interconnection, such that they cannot exist independently of the whole, or cannot be understood without reference to the whole, which is thus regarded as greater than the sum of its parts. Holism is often applied to mental states, language, and ecology.

    The opposite of atomism

    ‘In contrast, qualitative methods seek to represent holism and to provide contextual knowledge of the phenomenon being studied.’
    • ‘Synthesis and holism is much more scientifically subtle than analysis and reductionism.’
    • ‘The final principle is one of holism, which draws together the technical, organizational, and cultural aspects of technology and aims at a synthesis of science and religion.’
    • ‘He did not believe in holism and Newton's grand design.’
    • ‘Reading poetry emphasizes holism in that the entire poem is read to pupils before a discussion to analyze its contents follows.’
    1. 1.1Medicine The treating of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of an illness.
      ‘We report the findings of a national survey of the views of Scotland's general practitioners on holism in primary care.’
      • ‘Doctors and patients need evidence about complementary treatments, but randomised controlled trials need to be carefully designed to take holism into account and avoid invalid results’
      • ‘This article will explore the concept of holism, and demonstrate how it can be incorporated into health care settings today.’
      • ‘We explored alternative frameworks that embraced holism and body-mind-spirit unity.’
      • ‘In their appeal to holism, practitioners claim to be able to work with an implausible number of unique configurations of information.’



/ˈhōlˌizəm/ /ˈhoʊlˌɪzəm/


1920s from holo-‘whole’ + -ism; coined by J. C. Smuts to designate the tendency in nature to produce organized ‘wholes’ (bodies or organisms) from the ordered grouping of units.