Hale and Hearty after Thanksgiving Dinner

Hale and Hearty after Thanksgiving Dinner

November 19, 2020 By Andy Hollandbeck

Like no other holiday, Thanksgiving revolves around food. For many of us, the day sets visions of roasted turkey and dressing, mounds of mashed potatoes, cranberry jelly, and pumpkin pie dancing in our heads. But many Americans are being more health-conscious these days, creating more balanced and nutritious meals for their family and friends.

Some, I’ve been told, even serve vegetables.

Come Thursday evening, healthful meals like this cause less food coma and more vigor, which leads us to two pairs of often confused words:


Hale has two meanings. One, related to the Old French haler “to haul” means, well, “to haul” — or “to compel to go.” This is used primarily in legal contexts. Your uncle’s story about his brush with the law might include being hauled into court, but the official transcript will read that a defendant was haled into court.

The other hale is etymologically related to whole and means “free from defect or infirmity” or “retaining exceptional health and vigor.” This is the type of hale that a well-planned Thanksgiving dinner and a little bit of self-control can lead to. Remembering that the letters in hale are all found in the word health can help you remember the spelling.

Hail fits the bill for most everything else:


Hardy is, as you might guess, related to hard. It means “robust, tenacious, inured to hardship.” If it withstands violent weather, a barrage of insults, or the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, it is hardy. Also, if it and its brother solve mysteries together, you might be dealing with one of the Hardy Boys.

Hearty means “vigorous, vehement, or unrestrained” (as in “a hearty endorsement” or “a hearty bellow”) or “exhibiting vigorous good health.” Ironically, while a heart-healthy meal can help a person stay hearty (“exhibiting good health”), all that planning might be for naught if he cannot restrain his hearty (“unrestrained”) appetite.

The link between hearty and heart health ought to help guide you to the correct spelling.

So the idiom you hope to use to describe yourself after a well-balanced and healthful Thanksgiving dinner is “hale and hearty” — and yes, the phrase is basically redundant. That’s idioms for you.

And I hope this Thanksgiving we can all avoid a hardy hail, which could pummel our hardy mums to shreds.

Header photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

This article was originally posted on the Copyediting website, Nov. 23, 2016.

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