Word of the Day


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1. the condition of your body, especially whether or not you are ill

2. the condition of being strong and well

3. the degree of success that something has

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The word health is of Germanic origin and is related to the word ‘hale’ meaning ‘whole’. It has been used in English since its earliest times. The primary meaning was the second one above, with other meanings coming later.


Sunday has been designated World Health Day by the World Health Organization, the UN body working to promote health around the globe. It marks the anniversary of the day in 1948 when the WHO‘s constitution came into force. This year’s theme is universal health coverage and its aim is to draw attention to the millions around the world who have inadequate access to health care or are forced to choose between it and other basic needs. Health forms part of numerous compounds. One of the more recent ones is health halo, the perception that something is good for you, even though there is little or no evidence to back this up. If someone gets or is given a clean bill of health they are told they are healthy after being examined by a doctor. The phrase is often used figuratively, to say that something is operating correctly or is in a good condition. This use of the word ‘bill’ has nothing to do with payment: it is an old sense of the word that means ‘a written document’.


“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”
(Mark Twain)

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.”
(Thomas Jefferson)

Related words

fitness, constitution, well-being

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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