‘Whole’ vs. ‘Hole’: What’s the Difference?

By Kelsey Weeks, updated on August 8, 2023

Looking at the words ‘whole’ vs. ‘hole,’ there are a ‘whole’ lot of differences, but the way they are said is not one of them. These words do have different meanings, almost opposite meanings.  Don’t fret; we will spend the ‘whole’ article going over the details and ensure that we do not leave any ‘holes.’

A run-through to save time:

  • ‘Whole’ means the entirety or completeness.
  • ‘Hole’ refers to an opening or empty space.

Learning what the words mean and how they are used will allow you to feel absolute confidence when speaking and writing both ‘whole’ and ‘hole.’ Stick around to learn all that is needed.

What is the Difference Between ‘Whole’ and ‘Hole?’

‘Whole’ and ‘hole’ are homophones; you may have guessed since they sound the same, but they have different meanings and spellings. Although they sound the same, what are these differences besides the letter ‘w?’

  • The word ‘whole’ comes from Middle English, ‘hool’ means healthy, unhurt, or entire. This translation has kept true with the spelling changes in current English.

Middle English hole goes back to Old English ‘hol’ meaning hollow place, cave, or pit. This word has stayed consistent since Middle English with both meaning and spelling.

Definition of ‘Whole': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘whole’ can be an adjective, noun, or adverb.

'Whole' as an adjective means:

  • Free of wound or injury.
    • Recovered from a wound or injury.
    • Being healed.
    • Free of defect of impairment.
    • Physically sound and healthy.
    • Mentally or emotionally sound.
  • Having all its proper parts or components.
  • Constituting the total sum or undiminished entirety.
  • An undivided unit.
  • Seemingly complete or total.
  • The entirety of a person’s nature of development.
  • Having the same father and mother.

As a noun, it means:

  • A complete amount or sum: a number, aggregate, or totality lacking no part, member, or element.
  • Something constituting a complex unity: a coherent system or organization of parts fitting or working together.

As an adverb, it means:

  • Wholly, entirely.
  • As a complete entity.

Synonyms of ‘Whole’

  • All
  • Undivided
  • Entire
  • Healthy
  • Well
  • Robust
  • Complete
  • Full
  • Total
  • Sum
  • Totality

Antonyms of ‘Whole’

  • Partial
  • Incomplete
  • Imperfect
  • Sick
  • Diseased
  • Unhealthy
  • Divided
  • Scattered

Definition of ‘Hole': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘hole’ is a noun or verb.

'Hole' as a noun means:

  • An opening through something or perforation.
    • An area where something is missing.
      • A serious discrepancy, flaw, or weakness.
      • An opening in a defensive formation.
  • A hollowed-out place.
    • A cave or well in the ground.
    • Burrow.
    • An unusually deep place in a body of water.
  • A wretched or dreary place.
    • A prison cell, especially for solitary confinement.
  • Part of the golf course.
  • An awkward position or circumstance.
    • A position of owing or losing money.

As a verb, it means:

  • To make an opening through or a hollowed-out place. To make a hole.
  • To drive or hit into a hole.

Synonyms of ‘Hole’

  • Aperture
  • Opening
  • Crevice
  • Orifice
  • Pit
  • Cavity
  • Dent
  • Ditch
  • Trench
  • Predicament
  • Pickle
  • Dilemma
  • Dump
  • Mess
  • Hellhole
  • Gap
  • Nest
  • Lair
  • Burrow
  • Void
  • Drill
  • Pierce
  • Punch

Antonyms of ‘Hole’

  • Fill
  • Patch
  • Completeness
  • Projection
  • Bulge
  • Protrusion
  • Seal
  • Plug

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Whole’ and ‘Hole’

As a reminder, ‘whole’ and ‘hole’ are pronounced the same even though they have different meanings and slightly different spelling.

This is a quick guide on how to say the words to ensure you can complete your usage.

  • The phonetic spelling of 'whole’ and ‘hole’ is:


When to use ‘Whole’ vs. ‘Hole’

Examples will help to understand the best usage of ‘whole’ vs. ‘hole.’

  • Use ‘whole’ when speaking of entirety.

For this example, you can tell your boss:

I completed the ‘whole’ project, and it is ready for review.

  • Use ‘whole’ to describe being healthy.

One may tell their doctor:

I am feeling ‘whole’ again after my divorce, so my health should reflect that.

  • You can use ‘hole’ to inform someone of an opening.

You may tell your friend:

I noticed a ‘hole’ in the back of your bag, and I don’t want your items to fall out. 

  • You can also use ‘hole’ to mention a gap.

You may urgently tell someone:

There is a ‘hole’ up ahead, so please watch where you step so you do not get hurt.

Sample Sentences Using 'Whole'

Review these sample sentences to learn to use ‘whole’ in all three parts of speech.

  • In children’s stories, characters are known for swallowing things ‘whole,’ which would not normally be possible, but the old lady in one story is able to swallow from a fly to a cow.
  • The ‘whole’ fundraiser went off without a hitch, and we were able to raise enough money to fund the rest of the construction.
  • People are amazed at eating competitions when competitors can eat multiple ‘whole’ pizzas by themselves.
  • The students were able to take their parts of fractions and add them together to get one ‘whole’ number.
  • They have a blended family with three ‘whole’ siblings and three half-siblings. Although it is a blended family, they all treat each other the same.
  • My daughter told me that her stomach feels a ‘whole’ lot better, so I will be able to come back to work tomorrow.
  • The store carries lots of different types of milk, but the most common one to be sold right now is ‘whole’ milk.

Sample Sentences Using 'Hole'

Review these sample sentences to learn how to use ‘hole.’

  • We reviewed the grouping of bullet ‘holes’ to learn how to adjust our sight and breathing. The grouping seemed to be closer this time.
  • When reviewing your argument for your speech tomorrow, there are some ‘holes’ that we can address so that you are prepared to deliver.
  • Stephanie keeps finding a ‘hole’ in her yard that she fills daily, but a new one appears. She is unsure what kind of animal continues to make it.
  • After that last bet, he is now fifty dollars in the ‘hole,’ so he decided it is better to cut his losses and walk away now rather than try to recuperate what he is down.
  • The team has been practicing all week to reduce ‘holes’ in their formations to ensure that a running back can’t make it through the line.

Closing Words on ‘Whole’ vs. ‘Hole’

To encapsulate quickly:

  • ‘Whole’ relates to being completed or well.
  • ‘Hole’ relates to having or being an opening.

The ‘whole’ time was spent covering what the differences are between ‘whole’ vs. ‘hole.’ In addition, we went through uses, meaning, and where the words came from. Hopefully, this helps you have a complete understanding and not leave any ‘holes’ in your vocabulary.

All posts on our website explain how to use tricky words correctly. Check back frequently to reduce the errors in your writing. You can find additional resources on English words in the confusing words section.

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Written By:
Kelsey Weeks
Kelsey Weeks is currently a school counselor at a high school and a previous English teacher. She loves helping others with literacy, learning more, and exploring nature. She has an undergrad in English with an emphasis on secondary education and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from NYU.

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